Tough talk for assaults on police

NOTHING is being ruled in or out as Police Minister Rene Hidding prepares to make good on election promises to introduce mandatory minimum sentencing for serious assaults on police officers and tougher penalties for firearm- related crime.

Critics, including the previous government and the Law Society of Tasmania, opposed the Liberals' policy of mandatory minimum jail terms for offenders who seriously assault police and other emergency service workers, arguing that sentencing options should remain in the hands of the judiciary.

However, Mr Hidding said the Justice Department was already drafting legislation in relation to serious assaults against police specifically, in order to streamline the process.

He hopes the bill will be brought before Parliament within months.

Mr Hidding would not reveal how long a mandatory minimum sentence would be.

"All options are being looked at," he said.

"What we want to see here is nobody sent to prison as a result of it.

"We want to see police officers assaulted less as a result of this."

The Police Minister is also keeping his options open in relation to getting tough on firearm- related offences.

Since late April in the Launceston area alone, there have been almost 10 reported firearm-related crimes, including drive-by shootings at Norwood, Ravenswood and Kings Meadows, the shooting of a pet cat at Kings Meadows, 27 registered firearms stolen at Newstead and Newnham, an attempted armed robbery at Ravenswood, and an armed man threatening people at Ravenswood.

Mr Hidding has promised to introduce tougher firearm storage requirements and harsher punishment for firearm burglaries.

When asked if mandatory minimum penalties might be introduced, he said he was not ruling anything in or out.

"Nothing's not on the table," Mr Hidding replied.

He said the government had restarted the previous government's "bogged down" review of firearm laws and he intended to deliver on new laws this calendar year.

Mr Hidding also acknowledged that the police service had suffered because of cuts made by the previous government.

"As the government and as the incoming government, our view was to agree, with a great majority of people, that the cuts to the front line made the Tasmania Police service less of a good police service," he said.

"They were a lesser quality police service than they deserved to be."

However, Mr Hidding would not say if he would cut public servants from the police service.

"There are a small number of non-sworn employees in the department, but they have already over the previous years been whittled right down, so it's difficult," he said.

"Every year there is a budget challenge.

"We are in that process now and things will be revealed in August."


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