Emergency Services Assaults Bill receives further boost

The State Government will move to toughen up aspects of its proposed changes to the laws around assaults against emergency services workers, ahead of debate on the Bill in Parliament today.

Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman said that, under the changes, stronger penalties would be in place for offenders who cause harm to police and other emergency services workers.

“We’ve been liaising closely with the Police Association of South Australia both in the development of this legislation and once it was introduced to State Parliament,” Ms Chapman said.

“These changes will help address some of the Association’s concerns, and toughen up the penalties for those who attack our emergency services workers.”

Attorney-General Chapman said that – under the Government’s proposed amendments - the maximum penalty for assaulting police will be seven years where harm is caused, and five years where there is no harm caused. 

“These penalties would apply to attacks against all emergency services workers – police, firefighters, ambulance officers and correctional services officers,” Ms Chapman said.

The increased penalties will also apply to the Government’s proposed offence of spitting or throwing biological materials at an emergency worker, with the maximum penalty now proposed as seven years where harm is caused, and five years where there is no harm caused.

Ms Chapman said the offence has also been extended, following feedback from the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.

“Under these amendments, the penalties of up to five or seven years in prison will also apply where the victim is working in a hospital emergency department, is engaged in retrieval medicine or is a rural doctor working in an emergency scenario,” Ms Chapman said.

“This will afford a greater level of protection to doctors and nurses working in our emergency departments, and those working in rural and regional areas.

“If passed, these biological materials laws will also see community corrections and community youth justice staff classified as emergency services workers, affording a greater level of deterrence of assaults against them.”

“In addition, we have created a new standalone biological materials offence that covers ordinary individuals – with a maximum penalty of two years in prison, or three where harm is caused.”

Ms Chapman said the offences would better protect police and other emergency services workers, while complementing existing laws capturing offences against police and broader assault laws including:

  • Shoot at police, with a maximum penalty of ten years in jail.
  • Shoot at police and causing serious harm to an officer, with a maximum penalty of 25 years in jail.
  • Acts endangering the life of another, with a maximum penalty of 18 years as an aggravated offence when against a police officer.
  • Acts endangering the life of another, with a maximum penalty of 18 years.

“This is in addition to other offences, where the fact that the victims is a police officer, or an emergency services worker would be considered an aggravating factor and therefore likely to attract a higher penalty from the courts,” Ms Chapman said.