Better protection for emergency workers
People who assault frontline health workers, correctional and youth justice officers and emergency services staff and volunteers will face tougher penalties under new offences the NSW Government has committed to introduce this year.
The NSW Government is supporting, in full or in principle, all of the recommendations in the NSW Sentencing Council’s report Assaults on Emergency Services Workers.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the NSW Government will go further than the recommendations from the report by ensuring that firefighters from the NSW Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue NSW and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, and NSW State Emergency Service frontline workers will be covered by the new offences.
“Our frontline emergency workers perform an essential public service in keeping our community safe and protecting lives, property and health,” Mr Perrottet said.
“We are committed to increasing protections for our emergency services workers and ensuring that sentencing for assaults and other actions against these workers is appropriate.
“They keep us safe and we will do whatever we can to keep them safe too.”
Deputy Premier and Minister for Police Paul Toole said the new offences of assaulting frontline workers will align with existing penalties for assaulting NSW police officers and other law enforcement officers.
“Our frontline emergency service workers, including our men and women in blue, put their lives on the line every day, going above and beyond to protect and serve the community,” Mr Toole said.
“Aligning the penalties for assaulting emergency service workers with the penalties for assaulting NSW police officers reflects their importance in our community, and will help safeguard against unruly culprits who think they are above the law.”
Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said the creation of new offences for assaulting frontline health workers will help protect paramedics and hospital staff who commit their working lives to saving lives.
“No one deserves to be assaulted, whatever the circumstances, but anyone who commits a violent attack on health professionals trying to care for them is committing an appalling crime,” Mr Hazzard said.
Attorney General Mark Speakman said the state’s frontline emergency workers have dealt with some difficult challenges in the past two years.
“Our frontline health workers, emergency services staff, and correctional and youth justice officers often face risks as they bravely serve our community,” Mr Speakman.
“Those who perpetrate disgraceful acts of violence on these dedicated individuals should face stringent consequences.”
Minister for Corrections Geoff Lee said that Corrective Services and Youth Justice officers play a vital role in supporting inmates and keeping the community safe.
“There is no excuse for violence against these workers,” Mr Lee said.
“Correctional staff should be able to have confidence that the justice system, for which they work so hard, will also support them if they need it.”
Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said the NSW Government is committed to ensuring that emergency services workers are protected.
“Through fire and flood, our dedicated volunteer and paid firefighters and State Emergency Service members do all they can to protect people and property.
“They deserve our gratitude, respect and laws that will help keep them safe,” Ms Cooke said.
The Government aims to introduce legislation to give effect to these reforms by mid-2022.
In preparing its report, the NSW Sentencing Council consulted victims’ advocates, legal experts, the NSW Police Force, Corrective Services NSW and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Submissions were received from a range of stakeholders, including Legal Aid NSW, the Public Service Association of NSW and the Australian Medical Association (NSW).
The Sentencing Council is led by former Royal Commission chair and NSW Judge of Appeal, the Hon Peter McClellan AM QC. It includes the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Senior Public Defender, an Assistant Police Commissioner, the Commissioner for Corrective Services, the CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT and experts in criminal and sentencing law.
The NSW Government’s response to the Sentencing Council’s report is available here.