• Hannah Phillips

Protecting our Emergency Workers

Tougher laws could be introduced in Victoria to crack down on people who attack emergency workers, following a meeting between Premier Daniel Andrews and representatives from the Police Association Victoria and Ambulance Employees Australia Victoria.

The meeting follows on from a recent case where two women who assaulted paramedic Paul Judd in 2016 were let off without any jail time.

Minister for Ambulance Services Jill Hennessy said: “Paramedics go to work to save lives. It is not acceptable that they are attacked just for doing their job.”

Under the proposed changes, anyone who attacks and injures an emergency worker will receive a custodial sentence, with the State Government to toughen statutory minimum prison sentencing laws and further limit the use of community corrections orders.

“We will do everything we can to protect those who protect us. This sends the strongest possible message – if you attack and injure an emergency worker, you will go to jail," Premier Daniel Andrews said.

The three key elements to the reforms that will be introduced to Parliament in the coming weeks include:

  • Attacks resulting in injuries against emergency workers, including police, paramedics, firefighters and health workers delivering or supporting emergency care, like nurses and doctors, will now be treated as category 1 offences and will require Courts to impose a custodial sentence, not a community based order such as a CCO.

  • The special reasons exception which applies to all statutory minimum prison sentences will be substantially narrowed so that impairment due to alcohol or drugs can no longer be used as an excuse, psychosocial immaturity will be removed as a special reason, and the court must give significantly less weight to the life circumstances of the offender

  • The rights of the Director of Public Prosecutions will be strengthened so she can appeal where the narrowed special reasons exception is found to exist.

Exact details about how this will operate for juveniles will be agreed upon between the Government and the Police Association Victoria and the Ambulance Employees Australia Victoria over coming months.

An Emergency Worker Harm Reference Group will also be set up to oversee the implementation of reforms and will include relevant emergency service agencies and unions.

Minister for Police Lisa Neville also commented, saying: “Police spend their lives keeping the community safe. These tough news laws will close the loophole so offenders can’t avoid jail because of a technicality.”

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