Police at Iluka were forced to dodge a man's attempts to ram them as they attempted a pursuit.
Police at Iluka were forced to dodge a man's attempts to ram them as they attempted a pursuit. TREVOR VEALE

HUNTERS HUNTED: Police dodged driver's attempts to ram them

POLICE and the public at Iluka were terrified and feared for the lives when a Yamba man went on a driving rampage at a sporting field and in nearby streets, Grafton Local Court has heard.

On Monday Craig Sebastian Johnson, 45, appeared at Grafton to face charges of driving in a manner dangerous, using a weapon to prevent lawul apprehension and resisting arrest, for a 10-minute period of motorised mayhem on the morning of May 25.

Johnson has yet to enter a plea on the charges after magistrate Roger Prowse rejected the guilty plea.

Johnson's solicitor, Peter Hunter, attempted to mount a case his client was mentally ill at the time of the offending.

But magistrate Prowse said some evidence he relied on, including a treatment plan for Johnson, was not up to scratch and said the behaviour had been too violent to be dealt with under the Mental Health Act.

Mr Hunter said he would change his client's plea to guilty, but again Mr Prowse intervened by rejecting the plea and urging him to come back to court with a stronger mental health case.

The police facts reveal 10 minutes of mayhem in which Johnson repeatedly drove his car at a police vehicle, while leaning out of the window taunting them. Several times he performed burnouts in front of them as police attempted to arrest him.

Police became aware of all was not well with Johnson when an off-duty officer reported he had been harassing people at junior soccer games at the Iluka Sports Fields.

Around 10.55am police arrived at the ground and saw Johnson driving a maroon Mitsubishi Lancer west on Iluka Rd.

Police u-turned to follow the car so they could interview the driver about his behaviour.

Instead Johnson turned his car around and drove straight at the police car, swerved around it and returned toward Iluka.

Police said Johnson twice indicated he was turning right into Johnson Ln, then Spenser St, without turning.

He turned left into Spenser St, then left again into Denne St and back into the sporting field car park.

When police entered the carpark, Johnson performed a burn-out, then drove straight at them. He swerved around the police car, missing it by a metre. Another burn-out followed.

Police followed Johnson into Spenser St, but saw him u-turn and drive back towards them, this time with his head out the window and yelling taunts as he swerved around their car.

Police saw Johnson return to the sports ground carpark and performed another burn-out.

When police re-entered the carpark Johnson did another burn-out, then swerved toward the police vehicle, almost colliding with it.

By this time police suspected Johnson was trying to initiate a pursuit and called Highway Patrol for assistance.

They stopped in Denne St, where the Lancer again drove toward them and swerved at the last minute to avoid a collision.

Police then drove into Spenser St away from Johnson, but he followed them.

He overtook them near the Iluka Rd intersection and near the Iluka Police Station u-turned and drove back at the car again.

This time police were forced to take evasive action to avoid a head-on collision.

Police parked and waited for the arrival of the highway patrol when they heard a call from the off-duty officer that Johnson had returned to the sporting field and a member of the public had taken his car keys.

Police returned to the fields, where Johnson saw them and ran away across the fields of children playing soccer.

A member of the public pushed him over and police, the off-duty officer and several members of the public jumped on top of him to hold him down.

He ignored directions to put his hands behind his back and continued to thrash around violently while officers attempted to pull his arms out from underneath his body.

Eventually they were able to handcuff him and place him in custody.

Police said people hid behind trees and other vehicles in terror when Johnson was driving around the carpark.

Police also feared for their lives when Johnson drove his car at them.

In court Magistrate Prowse said there was nothing in dispute in the facts, the only dispute was how the court would hear the matter.

He said a treatment plan, which Johnson's solicitor Mr Hunter relied on to show his client was mentally ill at the time, did not measure up.

He said it lacked times, dates for the goals to achieve its aims.

"At best its a series of vague aspirations," Mr Prowse said.

He adjourned the hearing until October 28, which would allow the defence to prepare its case that Johnson was mentally ill at the time. Bail was formally refused.



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