Tougher sentences for attacks on Victorian emergency service workers

New laws protecting emergency service workers from assaults will be introduced to Parliament today.

The Justice Legislation Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2018 will make injuring an emergency worker including police, paramedics, doctors and nurses delivering or supporting emergency care, firefighters and prison officers a category 1 offence under the Sentencing Act 1991.

“Under these new laws, the cowards who attack and injure emergency service workers will get what they deserve,” said Premier Daniel Andrews.

“Our emergency service workers put their lives on the line to keep us safe. They are not punching bags.”

Under these new laws, courts will have to impose a custodial sentence and will not be able to sentence offenders to a community correction order or other non-custodial outcome, even after determining that special reasons apply and that the statutory minimum sentence should not be imposed.

“Our paramedics do a wonderful job saving the lives of Victorians. It’s simply unacceptable that they are attacked just for doing their jobs,” said Minister for Ambulance Services Jill Hennessy.

The Bill will provide a very narrow exception for cases involving offenders with a mental or cognitive challenge.

The Bill will also provide a significant restriction on special reasons that courts can consider in order not to impose a statutory minimum or a custodial sentence for a category 2 offence by:

  • Making it clear that offenders cannot rely on impaired mental functioning where it was caused solely by self-induced intoxication, by drugs or alcohol
  • Changing the way existing law applies to young offenders, with people aged 18 to 20 years at the time of their offence no longer able to reply upon their immaturity as a special reason
  • Ensuring that if impaired mental functioning is relied upon because it will make imprisonment more risky or burdensome, this must be materially and substantially greater than usual
  • Narrowing the existing special reason of ‘substantial and compelling circumstances’ to clarify that circumstances must be exceptional and rare, and setting out a list of factors that do not constitute substantial and compelling reasons, such as the offender’s prospects of rehabilitation, or previous good character.

New powers will be given to the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal any decision involving finding ‘special reasons’ if she considers the finding resulted in an inadequate sentence. The new Bill will also require the Supreme and County Courts to have regard to the statutory minimum sentences that would have applied to an adult when sentencing a young person aged 16 to 17 at the time of offending.

“This legislation sends the strongest possible message that it’s unacceptable to assault and injure a police officer, and if you do you can expect to go to jail,” said Minister for Police Lisa Neville.

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