A push from The Examiner for harsher penalties when off-duty police officers are assaulted has seen the state government announce a change to sentencing laws.
The news from Police Minister Rene Hidding comes after a campaign launched by The Examiner last month called for a crackdown on targeted attacks on officers, even when they are not in uniform.
The campaign was created after a Longford police officer was coward-punched at a pub “because he was a cop”.
A petition followed and nearly 600 people signed in support of the campaign within a few weeks of it launching.
On Wednesday, Mr Hidding will announce an amendment to the Sentencing Act 1997, allowing for minimum mandatory jail terms for assaults on off-duty officers.
The change will be in addition to the six-month minimum sentence which already applies to assaults on officers “in the execution of their duty”.
“This (current) legislation is sending a strong message that assaults against our hard-working police will not be tolerated, but a recent case in the state’s North has highlighted an issue when violence is directed against police officers who are off-duty,” Mr Hidding said.
“This recent incident reveals that some individuals may feel malice towards police officers, either individually or generally, and this amendment will ensure zero tolerance applies when our hard-working police officers are targeted because of their jobs.
“While some individuals may feel aggrieved by police officers generally, there are no circumstances in which police officers should be targeted and assaulted because of their job.”
The amended legislation will extend to assaults that are “motivated by a person’s status as a serving police officer”.
One exception, however, will be when the defendant can prove in court that the assault was not a targeted attack on an officer because of their role.
“We make no apologies for introducing a minimum mandatory jail sentence for those convicted of causing serious bodily harm to police officers, nor for extending that protection to off-duty officers, as this will further assist in restoring community respect for those who put their safety on the lines for others,” Mr Hidding said.