Solution needed to protect off-duty officers

The campaign to improve protection for off-duty police officers has hit a snag.

The Examiner first raised the issue when, in July, two men were charged with assaulting an off-duty police officer.

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 told The Examiner

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. This incident was not isolated. The Examiner agreed, and launched a campaign to bring attention to the loop hole in the law.

Following this successful campaign by The Examiner, Police Minister Rene Hidding introduced legislation for off duty police officers.

The legislation was connected to mandatory sentencing, which hasn’t been supported by the Legislative Council.

The legislation for off-duty police officers was rejected on Wednesday.

It’s important to note that the legislation won’t fail because there isn’t support for increased protection.

The majority of the community agrees the “gap” must be completed.

But, we must get it right and trust that our government (both upper and lower house) will do so with the best interest of all involved.

In the meantime, The Examiner will continue to work with key stakeholders and organisations to ensure a conversation around respect towards all emergency workers is heard.

There is no excuse for violence, particularly because of the badge someone’s wear about eight-hours a day.