Former Tasmanian Premier says mandatory sentences are not the way to go

Lara Giddings says mandatory sentencing for assaults on off-duty police offenders is not the answer

Lara Giddings says mandatory sentencing for assaults on off-duty police offenders is not the answer

Labor will not support the government’s proposal for mandatory sentencing for assaults on police officers to be extended to off-duty personnel.

This means while the changes will easily pass through the lower house, the government will have to do a hard sell on independents in the Legislative Council.

The upper house in June blocked the government’s intention to introduce minimum mandatory sentences for child sex offences.

But two years ago it passed a penalty of six-month mandatory jail terms for serious assaults committed on police officers.

So far, nobody has earned a mandatory sentence.

And despite the tough laws, assaults on police officers went up in 2015-16 compared to the previous financial year.

Labor justice spokeswoman Lara Giddings said assaults on police, on-duty or off-duty, should not be tolerated.

“Both Labor and the government want to see Tasmanians protected, we just disagree on the best way to do it,” she said.

“The evidence shows mandatory sentencing does not make people safer in our community.

“We would urge the Liberals to put more energy into addressing the factors that lead to crime rather than beating their chests.”

Police Minister Rene Hidding said the extension was in response to an assault on an off-duty police officer at Longford and discussions with police officers since then.

The man received minor injuries.

But the law, if passed, would only apply to assaults which resulted in serious injuries.

“I’m very pleased to understand that that police officer wasn’t badly hurt and that circumstance would not have triggered the mandatory imprisonment,” Mr Hidding said.

“But that’s just lucky.”

Police documents show that as of May this year, there have been 215 assaults against police, 282 instances of resisting arrest, 80 circumstances where police have been obstructed from their duties, and 368 charges of threatening, abusing or intimidating an officer.

Twelve of these have been Criminal Code offences.

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