Tele/ Newcastle News: Paul Johnson convicted, jailed over two dangerous police pursuits at Maitland

(16 April) A Hunter man disqualified from driving for life when he sparked a high-speed chase that killed a police officer in 2016, has been jailed for two more dangerous pursuits.

Since the age of 18, about 80 per cent of his life has been spent behind bars.

Addicted to smoking meth and whatever drugs he could find while in custody, it was a “revolving door” for Paul Johnson.

“I get out, go on the drugs and go back in,” Mr Johnson said while giving evidence.

The 39-year-old – who was disqualified from driving for life – has a long wrap sheet of robbery, break and enter and mainly serious traffic offences, twice being convicted and sentenced to jail for two dangerous police pursuits, the court heard.

One of those which ultimately resulted in the death of Port Stephens police officer Geoffrey Richardson in the Hunter Valley on March, 5, 2016.

Johnson was behind the wheel when he initiated a police pursuit near Maitland, before Sgt Richardson met a bend on Lovedale Rd at Allandale and lost control, slamming into a tree, killed instantly.

He was found guilty of driving the car involved in a police pursuit, but was not charged with the officer’s death. He was sent to jail for 18 months non-parole.

The other he was involved in a high-speed chase in Dubbo in 2018.

In Newcastle District Court on Friday, dressed in his prison greens, it seemed deja vu for a teary Johnson, as he was sentenced over two more shocking police pursuits.

The first, the court heard he was on parole, on May 25, 2019, in a stolen car which was sighted by police in Rutherford.

Crossing over to the wrong side of the road, speeding through red lights and ignoring stop signs, Johnson tore through the streets of Maitland before finally he lost control and slammed into a cemetery, damaging 17 grave sites.

The second, on bail at the time, again driving recklessly through Rutherford, weaving in and out of traffic, driving on the wrong side of the road and evading deployed spikes on two occasions, the court heard.

Police facts stated he and an 18-year-old passenger fled on foot from the vehicle in bushland near Weston and were later picked up by a woman in a Toyota sedan.

But there were reinforcements from the sky, as Polair tracked the pair to a nearby home and after a short foot pursuit and struggle arrested them both.

Since September 14 last year Johnson has remained in custody.

With pleas of guilty to two police pursuits and drive while disqualified, a myriad of other charges were taken into account on sentencing.

The court heard Johnson, who referred to himself as a “waste of space and a burden on his family”, was at a “crossroads” and wanted to change by going into rehabilitation on release.

Crown Prosecutor Sam Burton questioned his intent to change after his lengthy criminal history asking, “Why are you at a crossroads now?” to which he replied, “I am aware why I do this now”.

He was jailed for three years with a non-parole period of one year and seven months, but dating it back to his time spent in custody – which was the accumulation of 71 weeks – Johnson will be eligible for release in less than three months time.

Judge Roy Ellis strongly recommended he go into a six to 12 month rehabilitation when released on parole, giving him some clear advice.

“It won’t be an easy road, and one of the things that will actually maximise your prospects of success is to get rid of the ridiculous male ego “real men don’t need help”,” he said.

“The reality is men are no different to women, we all need support in the community and help and especially when we are trying to deal with mental health issues and trauma.”

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