Police van ramming case put off for four months

TWO co-accused men face serving another four months in prison on remand after one of them refused to be transported to Warrnambool for a contested criminal case.

​​​James Leigh Nichols​, 26, of Geelong, ​​and ​Steven Bausch, ​28, of Laverock Road, Warrnambool, ​​pleaded not guilty to charges in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court on November 8 and a contested hearing began.

The charges relate to the ramming of a police divisional van and burglaries in Corangamite shire.

The case was to continue last Friday but Mr Bausch refused to be transported from the Metropolitan Remand Centre in Melbourne to Warrnambool.

The case has been adjourned for a continuation of the contested hearing on June 21 and the men were remanded in custody.

Magistrate Cynthia Toose said she had been told Mr Bausch refused to accept his clothes on Thursday night and then, when he didn't have his clothes, declined to get on a prisoner transport vehicle to travel to Warrnambool.

Neither made a bail application, but those applications are expected to be lodged in coming days.

Mr Bausch is blind, has drug, alcohol, gambling and mental health issues and the magistrate said his actions may indicate his current state of mind.

Mr Bausch's barrister Tim Sullivan said he suspected that his client did not understand the contested hearing could not go ahead without him being in attendance.

The lengthy delay until June 21 was set due to the extremely heavy workload at the Warrnambool Magistrates Court.

Mr Sullivan said it was clear that there was enough business at the Warrnambool court to keep two magistrates busy.

In the first day of the contested hearing a reluctant witness gave crucial evidence in a court case involving the ramming of a Warrnambool police divisional van.

​​Mr Nichols has been charged with 33 offences, ​Mr Bausch nine counts and co-accused Chloe Harris​, 20, of Wooles Avenue, Warrnambool,​ 29 charges.

​Ms Harris did not appear in court and a warrant was issued for her arrest.

She has since been arrested and is being held in custody.

Some of the charges relate to an incident on June 7 when a police divisional van was rammed.

A reluctant witness provided a medical certificate saying she may be unavailable to attend court.

A warrant was issued by the magistrate, police officers went to her home where she was taken into custody and brought to court so she could give evidence.

She has not been charged with any offence. 

She told the court she remembered little of driving around Warrnambool that night after drinking alcohol and taking prescription medication.

But, under rigorous re-examination by police prosecutor Senior Constable Kevin Mullins, she confirmed Mr Nichols and Mr Bausch were in the car at the time of the police pursuit. 

​Senior Constable Dave McPhail said that early on the morning of June 7 he was on divisional van patrol with another officer in Warrnambool’s Dooley Street area.

They came up behind a white Nissan Navara twin cab ute, which did a U-turn and made contact with the police vehicle before driving off.

The officers pursued the vehicle up Queens Road to Botanic Road, down Moore Street at speeds of up to 100km/h in a 60km/h zone to a roundabout with Aberline Road where the driver of the Navara did “three or four laps” of the roundabout. 

Senior Constable McPhail said he could see three people in the ute.

He said tools started flying out the rear passenger side window of the ute including spanners, a toolbox and axe. 

The vehicle then drove down Aberline Road to a vacant housing estate which it entered and the police van stopped at the entrance. 

Senior Constable McPhail said he knew it was a dead-end road and it was unwise to follow the ute which eventually came out. 

He said he had left room for the Navara to pass but the driver drove straight at the divisional van and evasive action resulted in the ute crashing into the rear of the divisional van.

“To be honest I was really taken aback after an attack on a police car like that,” he said, adding the pursuit was terminated by a controller.

The police officer said he felt really bad after the incident and had been very concerned about his safety. 

Police alleged Mr Nichols, Mr Bausch and Ms Harris were involved in burglaries and thefts in Cobden, Terang and at the Warrnambool City Memorial Bowls Club where a handbag was stolen on May 15.