Call to stop violent attacks on our cops
TOUGHER penalties and mandatory sentencing for offenders who assault police and other emergency service workers are being touted as possible outcomes of a NSW Government inquiry currently under way.
Tweed MP Geoff Provest, who steers the NSW Legislative Assembly Committee holding the inquiry, made the suggestion in the wake of several violent attacks on police in recent weeks.
Six police from the Tweed/Byron LAC have been injured in three separate incidents in recent weeks, adding to the 41 the number of assaults against police in the region in the 12months to April.
One officer remained on leave this week due to an assault-related injury.
Mr Provest said change was urgently needed to address an apparent culture of aggression towards men and women in uniform.
"I think it's an issue in the Tweed and all over," MrProvest said.
He said tougher penalties and possible mandatory sentencing for assaults on emergency service personnel were essential.
He said a local ambulance worker had approached him with concerns the current sentences weren't working as a deterrent.
"They said the sentences didn't reflect the crime," he said.
Mr Provest believed Western Australia's changes to tougher assault laws two years ago had resulted in a decline in incidents.
Mr Provest's comments came after he spent last Friday night on the road with Tweed/Byron LAC officers.
"I think there's a real urgency for this inquiry to ensure the proper safeguards are in place," he said.
"These people are out there trying to save lives... and they need all the legislation possible to make sure they can do that in a safe manner."
Police Association of NSW Tweed representative Brett Henderson-Smith said while statistics on police assaults were "relatively stable" in recent years, it remained "a problem".
"Respect for police officers and people in authority has diminished among some members of the community. This can lead to them feeling they can use police as punching bags," he said.
Tweed/Byron LAC Superintendent Wayne Starling said he was concerned to see his officers injured, saying the drug ice and mental health issues contributed to attacks.
But Tweed Heads solicitor Russell Baxter said mandatory sentencing wasn't the answer.
"In NSW we have judicial officers of the highest calibre," Mr Baxter said.
"To take away from the judges and magistrates of NSW or Queensland the right to properly determine the sentence that an offender receives is an insult to those given the power by government to undertake that task."
Submissions to the inquiry are open to July 22.