Man guilty of threatening cops with gun during pursuit

By Sam McKeith

A MAN who led police on a high-speed pursuit on the NSW North Coast has been found guilty of threatening highway patrol officers with a firearm during the incident.

On Friday, NSW District Court Acting Judge Colin Charteris found David Michael Bell, 39, guilty on firearms charges flowing from conduct after he fled an RBT at Macksville on the morning of December 11, 2016.

While Bell managed to escape from highway patrol officers on that day after crashing through a gate and leading officers down a bush track, he was subsequently arrested by NSW police on December 30, 2016.

At trial in September, Bell pleaded not guilty to charges of possessing an offensive weapon and threatening to use it to prevent lawful apprehension during the pursuit.

The Crown's case was that Bell had threatened officers with a shotgun during the pursuit, while the accused's defence counsel, barrister Brian Murray, argued police had "fabricated" the existence of a gun to justify not calling off the chase.

Mr Murray also claimed that no gun was visible from in-car police video of the pursuit.

In finding Bell guilty on all counts, Acting Judge Charteris described the testimony given by the highway patrol officers at trial as "compelling".

"They were seeking to be honest with the court," he said.

"In the scheme of things I thought their evidence was honest, accurate and reliable."

Acting Judge Charteris made special mention of the officers' "remarkable courage" during the pursuit, saying they continued to chase Bell's panel van despite the action putting them "at risk".

He said the police video "did not pick up everything that was occurring in the pursuit of the accused's van".

"I conclude that the quality of the in-car camera was not sufficient to capture the detail of what the accused was doing," he said.

"I'm satisfied that what the accused displayed was within the definition of an offensive weapon.

The court heard Bell's van travelled at a speed of up to 180km/h during the pursuit that lasted for about 15 minutes and covered more than 20km.

"This was a high-speed chase and the accused does not dispute ... the speeds that were recorded," the judge said.

During the chase police said Bell waved a shotgun out the driver's side window, told officers to "f--- off", and at one point "levelled" the firearm at officers, the court was told.

"These are very serious offences," Acting Judge Charteris said.

Bell will be sentenced on December 20.