Officer opened fire as car accelerated towards him

A TEENAGE driver who admitted driving at a police officer and hitting him will remain behind bars despite being granted release on parole.

Antonio Carmel Spiteri, 18, pleaded guilty at the Ipswich District Court to dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, serious assault of a police officer causing bodily harm, and unlawful use of a motor vehicle.

The court heard the officer drew his gun and fired at the stolen car Spiteri was driving as it sped towards him.

In the early hours of July 4 last year, police noticed a Holden Commodore - which had earlier been reported stolen from a Redbank Plains address - being driven by Spiteri without its lights on in Silkstone.

Police followed the Commodore into Burns Ln, a cul-de-sac.

The police car stopped on the road, partially blocking it. One of the officers approached the

Commodore, which had mounted the kerb and turned its lights on facing the police car.

The officer heard the car's engine rev and it began to drive forward. He held out his hand and yelled at Spiteri to stop.

As the Commodore continued to accelerate towards him, the court heard the officer, in fear for his life, pulled out his gun and fired towards the driver's seat.

The court heard the bullet was centimetres from hitting Spiteri, striking the front driver's side pillar of the car.

The car hit the officer's arm as it passed causing minor injuries to his elbow.

Spiteri then led police on a chase through Ipswich, driving about 90kmh on suburban streets.

He drove down Blackstone Rd before turning on to South Station Rd and eventually to Butler St, Raceview where Spiteri jumped out of the still- moving vehicle, which hit with a letter box.

Spiteri then fled from police on foot and jumped fences into house yards.

Police caught up to Spiteri in one yard.

He tried to avoid arrest by telling them he was a resident and had just come out to see why all the police were here.

After initially believing him, police soon found he was the driver of the vehicle.

They relocated and arrested him.

He then told police the officer had jumped in front of his car to "set him up" but admitted being the driver of the vehicle.

Defence lawyer Matthew Fairclough told the court Spiteri hadn't intended to hit the officer and had "panicked" when he realised he was about to be caught driving a car he knew was stolen.

The court heard Spiteri had initially been charged with attempted murder which had been dropped before the case was presented to the District Court.

Mr Fairclough said being shot at had severely affected Spiteri and had "caused him some sleepless nights".

The court heard Spiteri had already spent about six months in prison on this and other charges, and would be remaining in prison on other charges even if released on parole.

Judge Sarah Bradley told Spiteri he was lucky he had not killed anyone or been killed himself.

"The potential when you get in a stolen car is that someone is going to be killed," she said.

"The police officer thought he was under threat and, in fear for his life, fired his revolver."

She said she was sentencing Spiteri on the basis, agreed by prosecution and defence, that he had driven at the officer recklessly but not deliberately targeting him.

She sentenced him to 18 months in prison and gave him immediate release on parole. Spiteri will remain behind bars until further matters are dealt with in the Magistrates Court.



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