Conversation about respect just beginning

Last month The Examiner decided enough was enough.

Over the years we have reported numerous counts of disrespectful behaviour towards police. This was evident through cases appearing in the magistrates courts.

In July,  two men were charged with assaulting an off duty police officer. Despite the officer being attacked because of the uniform he wears, the men could only be charged with common assault.

Longford Constable Mathew Dunstone was coward-punched outside the Carrick Inn last year “because he was a cop”.

“One of the guys saw me going outside and he said to me ‘you go and enjoy a cigarette, there’s blokes down in Risdon who don’t even get to have a cigarette anymore so you go and enjoy yourself’,” Constable Dunstone said.

Constable Dunstone was left with bruising and scratches to his face as well as pain in his ribs. 

The law, however, did not include assaults on off-duty officers and the attack on the officer was considered to be common assault, which does not carry a minimum mandatory sentence.

Handing down her sentence, Magistrate Sharon Cure described the attack as “dangerous, cowardly behaviour”.  One man was sentenced to three-months jail wholly suspended and the other was fined $1500. Both were given community service.

Feedback from the police department and union was that something had to be done. The Examiner agreed, and launched a campaign to bring attention to the loop hole in the law.

Police Minister Rene Hidding must be applauded for listening to key stakeholders and the community. 

Mr Hidding will seek to amend the Sentencing Act to introduce mandatory minimum sentences for serious assaults on off-duty police officers.

The dialogue our campaign created won’t end now.  Further conversation must be had around respect towards all emergency service workers. No one should be assaulted or abused while performing the duties of their job. 

Furthermore the conversation around respect must begin at grassroots level. It shouldn’t begin when an incident is before the courts.

The Examiner will continue to work with key stakeholders and organisations to help deliver this message.

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