A week's jail for those who attack health workers: Nicholls
ANYONE who assaults a nurse, doctor, or paramedic will spend a week in jail, under new laws proposed by the Queensland LNP.
The mandatory sentence is part of a new policy which will be announced today by Opposition leader Tim Nicholls at the Queensland Police Union Conference, in Brisbane.
The policy includes the creation of a new offence for assaulting or obstructing a paramedic, or other officer, similar to the existing offence covering assaults on police.
In the first four months of this year 176 ambulance officers alone have been assaulted across Queensland.
Statistic from Paramedics Australia show physical attacks across the state have increased by almost 20 compared to five years ago.
Under the new proposed policy, to be introduced if the LNP wins at the next election due before May 5 next year, there will be no wiggle room.
Those found guilty of assault will spend a minimum of seven days behind bars with the tough stance intended to deter people from committing the assault, a trend that has marked the introduction of similar legislation in other states.
"This is about sending a strong and clear message to the community - if you assault our frontline emergency services workers, you will be jailed," Mr Nicholls said.
Queensland already has a specific charge for serious assault on a police officer which carries a maximum sentence of 14-years imprisonment but no minimum sentence.
It was the LNP that increased the maximum sentence for serious assaults on police from seven years to 14 years in 2013, one of the first pieces of legislation passed after the Newman Government was elected.
But frontline workers say, despite the harsh maximum penalty, the punishments being handed out by the Queensland courts are just a 'slap on the wrist'.
"We believe it's fundamentally important to do more to protect those who protect us," Mr Nicholls said. "They put their lives on the line for Queenslanders, the least we can do is to do more to protect them.
"Under an LNP Government, those convicted of serious assault of police, ambos or firies will serve a mandatory minimum sentence of seven days behind bars.
"In other words - mandatory jail time - no ifs, no buts and no more excuses."
The LNP's heavy handed approach follows a formal petition calling on the Queensland Labor Government to introduce a mandatory six-month jail sentence for assaults on public officers.
That was rejected by Attorney General Yvette D'Ath in January when said she said she had confidence in the Queensland Court's ability to impose appropriate penalties without extending the specific charge to include all frontline workers.
"Sentencing is a complex process that requires the balancing of a number of competing issues," Ms D'ath said..
"In recognition that sentences must reflect community expectations, the Queensland Government has reinstated a sentencing advisory council under the Penalties and Sentences (Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council) Amendment Act 2016."
The decision was slammed by both the paramedics and the opposition which took aim at the state government's "soft approach on crime".
"The Queensland government has taken quite the virtual stand on those guilty of such offences, with threats of up to 14 years imprisonment," Paramedic Greg Golds said, after the petition was rejected.
"That is what has been promoted via advertising, but in truth, we continue to see slaps on the wrist, suspended sentencing, or degrees of lenience that are not in keeping with the expectations of the Queensland public."
The LNP's plan
- Someone convicted of a serious assault of an emergency services worker will be sentenced to a minimum of seven day's jail
- The LNP will also create a new offence of assaulting or obstructing a paramedic or other authorised officer
- The introduction of new penalties will be accompanied by education campaigns
- The maximum penalty for assault on paramedics, nurses etc will be 14 years' imprisonment
Health workers often victims
IPSWICH hospital staff and paramedics are regularly assaulted while doing their jobs.
West Moreton Hospital and Health figures show in the 2014-2015 financial year there were 242 assaults on staff. Over the three years between 2012 and 2015 there were 793 reported assaults at Ipswich Hospital.
Throughout Queensland more than 170 ambulance officers have already been assaulted this year while on the job.
In January 2016, the Queensland Ambulance Union called on the State Government to take immediate action and address the "unacceptable increase in assaults on ambulance officers".
The Sunshine State is behind when it comes to mandatory sentencing for those who assault frontline workers.
The Western Australia government says since it introduced mandatory jail time for those who physically injure a police, or other specified officer, in 2009 offence rates have dropped dramatically.
That's the outcome the LNP expects under its new policy, announced today, to introduce a one-week mandatory sentence for anyone who assaults a paramedic, nurse, doctor or other frontline worker.
Last year, the West Australian police minister revealed there had been a 34 per cent drop in police assaults, down from 1227 incidents in 2009 to 800 assaults in 2015.
Assaults against public officers dropped by 26% over the same period. .