(13 Nov) A former police detective left with a permanent disability after his car was rammed by an ex-bikie has lashed SA Police for a “lack of support” in the years following the incident.
Thomas Conner and his partner, Richard Miller, were injured when Christopher Darren Shah, 35, intentionally drove his high-powered BMW head-on into their police vehicle in July 2012.
Mr Conner told the District Court on Friday he was forced to take personal sick leave while recovering from a surgery related to his injuries and was told by SAPOL management that police officers could not be victims.
He said he spent years dealing with physical and mental injuries, lost relationships and had his career stunted before he finally resigned from the police force earlier this year.
Shah, who was a member of the Finks outlaw motorcycle gang, initially pleaded guilty to multiple charges but successfully applied to withdraw his pleas and go to trial in 2015.
He was found guilty in 2018, but the verdict was overturned following a Supreme Court appeal.
After a second trial, District Court Judge Simon Stretton last month dismissed Shah’s defence that the police car had rammed his vehicle.
He was found guilty of two counts of aggravated creating likelihood of serious harm in connection with the incident, which took place at Salisbury Park in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.
Reading his victim impact statement to the court, Mr Conner – who held the rank of Detective Brevet Sergeant at the time of the crash – said the long delay in finalising the matter was a “complete and utter disgrace”.
“As a police officer, I understood the risks involved with the occupation, but at no point, either before or after this incident, did I encounter such a deliberate attempt to kill me and my partner,” he said.
“Contrary to what I was told by SAPOL management, police officers can be victims.”
Mr Conner said in late-2012 he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which had lasting effects on his relationships and led him to move postings four times.
He said he also struggled with physical injuries for several years after the crash and initially required a shoulder reconstruction and six weeks off work.
But the injury was persistent, and he needed a second shoulder reconstruction in 2018.
“I was due to have six weeks off work again at this time, but due to the change in WorkCover legislation and the lack of support from SAPOL, I had to use four weeks of my personal sick leave, which caused me to be significantly out of pocket and return to work earlier than advised,” he said.
“This disability has had, and will forever continue to have, a severe impact on my personal and professional life.”
The detectives had been looking for Shah in connection with a serious incident when they found the BMW, which was registered to his father.
The District Court heard that when they stopped their vehicle and attempted to block his car, Shah accelerated and into them head-on before fleeing the scene.
During Shah’s most recent trial, investigators revealed the V8 engine of the luxury car was accelerating at 99.74 per cent engine load at the time of the crash.
The court heard on Friday that Shah has spent two years and seven months behind bars in relation to the incident.
Lawyers for Shah said, when taking that time into consideration, a sentence allowing him to apply for parole “quite soon” could be appropriate.
But prosecutor Mark Norman SC said the offences were “extremely serious”, and a significant and immediate prison sentence was inevitable.
“Very simply, the defendant used his vehicle as a weapon, which he aimed at police,” he said.
Judge Stretton remanded Shah in custody ahead of an appearance next month.
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