Government rejects changing bail laws for assaults on frontline workers

Lottie Twyford 10 November 2021 11
Jeremy Hanson, Alex Caruana and Jason Taylor

Opposition spokesperson on police Jeremy Hanson, AFPA president Alex Caruana and former police officer Jason Taylor. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

A proposal to make it more difficult for people accused of assaulting frontline workers to get bail was rejected yesterday by the ACT Government.

Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said he feared the proposed amendment, which would mean people who assault a frontline worker would not automatically be granted bail, may lead to miscarriages of justice, increase the overrepresentation of vulnerable people in the court system and could seriously impinge on a person’s human rights.

The Australian Federal Police Association and former police officer Jason Taylor – who was violently attacked with his back turned while on duty last year – said the government’s decision was “not good enough”.

Opposition spokesperson on police Jeremy Hanson, who introduced the bail bill in August to “provide greater protection from assault to police, ambulance and other emergency workers”, was also disappointed.

Mr Rattenbury said the government could not support the amendment for several reasons, among them what he described as a “mischaracterisation of the ACT’s bail system”.

He’s also concerned the term ‘assault’, to which this amendment pertains, covers too broad a range of offences, including minor ones such as spitting to major ones such as striking a person.

Shane Rattenbury MLA.

Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said the bill could pave the way for miscarriages of justice and increase the overrepresentation of vulnerable people in the justice system. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Mr Rattenbury went on to tell the Assembly yesterday there is no evidence those charged with assaulting a frontline community service provider have any greater risk of reoffending or failing to appear in court, and therefore, there is no reason to justify the removal of the presumption for bail.

Mr Rattenbury also does not believe there’s any evidence the bill would improve community safety, saying the opposite may instead occur as “the evidence clearly shows that heavy-handed carceral policies only serve to increase crime”.

The government is also concerned that the bill may unfairly target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members and those with mental illness as these people have higher levels of contact with frontline community service providers.

“There is a real potential for the amendments proposed in this Bill to exacerbate structural disadvantages in the criminal justice framework,” Mr Rattenbury said.

READ ALSO: Spike in racist incidents prompts call for easier reporting procedures

Speaking yesterday (10 November), Mr Hanson said to “make an assumption that Indigenous people are more likely to assault police officers is outrageous”.

He also accused the government of failing first responders, saying “it’s our police officers that are calling for this”.

Former police officer Jason Taylor suffered PTSD and retired from ACT Policing after being attacked from behind during a routine arrest in January 2020.

He said he was “disappointed and angry” with the government’s decision to reject the bill.

“I saw this bill as the beginning of a vast wave of reform required in the legislative and mental health space in relation to first offenders, and it’s not good enough,” Mr Turner said.

“This government has failed to back its first responders.”

READ ALSO: Strong community support for raising the age of criminal responsibility, although police say 14 is too high

The AFPA accused the government of putting the rights of offenders before those of police officers, with president Alex Caruana saying the messaging around harming police officers needs changing.

“We strongly reject and we strongly feel that the message that should be out there is that if someone does harm a police officer, there will be stronger penalties in place,” he said.

In recent months, there has been a spate of violent incidents in Canberra and the surrounding region in which police officers have been injured in the line of duty.

Three weeks ago, an officer was hurt when a man allegedly drove a stolen car at a police vehicle; a 30-year-old Canberra man is accused of running his car into three police officers in July, leaving all seriously injured; while three men were arrested after an incident that saw a police officer hurt so badly he may never work again.

Driving at police and damaging a police vehicle carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years and five years respectively, while assaulting a “frontline community service provider” carries a maximum of two years in prison.

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11 Responses to Government rejects changing bail laws for assaults on frontline workers
Janine Gilchrist Janine Gilchrist 9:27 am 14 Nov 21

This Government is too soft on all criminals. This is why we have car thefts and other issues on a daily basis.

Rooster James Rooster James 7:29 pm 11 Nov 21

The term minor for being spat on is so out of touch. When you are spat on there are months of blood tests and vaccinations to prevent infectious diseases and there is no legislation to compel an offender to say if they have hepatitis or HIV for example.

William Newby William Newby 6:37 pm 11 Nov 21

The human rights of violent criminals is clearly of more importance than is the safety and wellbeing of paramedics and police officers.

jwinston jwinston 6:21 pm 11 Nov 21

Ross Buchanan Young said “Let’s not go the ‘tough on crime’ way.”.

Because the ‘soft on crime’ way is working so we’ll…

purplevh purplevh 2:34 pm 11 Nov 21

“increase the overrepresentation of vulnerable people in the court system and could seriously impinge on a person’s human rights.”

Isn’t it time that we placed the human rights of victims before the human rights of criminals?

If someone commits a crime such as assault or even theft they are more often than not violating your victims human rights.

This alone should make the perpetrator’s human rights less valuable as they clearly don’t value human rights.

    jwinston jwinston 4:14 pm 11 Nov 21

    Most people would agree with you purplevh but, as long as Canberrans keep voting these clowns into government, law breakers will be a protected species.

Ross Buchanan Young Ross Buchanan Young 12:05 pm 11 Nov 21

The safety of frontline workers requires action at workplace level first and foremost. Changing the law will have no impact on antisocial behaviours by stressed out and irrational individuals. I believe we can have reasonable faith in our criminal justice system to manage bail decisions based on existing powers. Let's not go the 'tough on crime' way.

Futureproof Futureproof 10:36 am 11 Nov 21

The Greens always try to raise legislation to give prisoners the right to vote. Rattenbury doesn’t want to offend his possible future voting demographic

Richard Willcoxson Richard Willcoxson 10:34 am 11 Nov 21

They’re soft on criminals as well as the magistrates. Rattenbury talks about human rights being violated of the perpetrators. How about the human rights of frontline workers being able to do their jobs in a safe environment.

    Ben Davis Ben Davis 2:20 am 12 Nov 21

    Well said! The rat has never been one to support front line workers.

Spiral Spiral 10:05 am 11 Nov 21

Mr Rattenbury failing to support front line workers because it might upset the precious criminals.

Classic Greens ideology

No surprise there, business as usual.

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