Prison officers across New South Wales will walk off the job tomorrow after the Director of Public Prosecutions upgraded a charge against a prison officer from manslaughter to murder over the shooting of an escaping prisoner at Lismore Base Hospital in 2019. Prison officers are furious about the charge, saying the officer in question had no option but to shoot the escaping prisoner when he assaulted a fellow officer and fled. NSW prison officers escorting prisoners in the community are guided by the Sentencing Administration Act. Prison officers say the officer charged acted exactly according to protocol, and yet this has apparently been sufficient to charge him with murder. They are urgently calling for new, clear direction on when, and under what circumstances, they can use the firearms they are deployed with. “As soon as a prisoner used force to break free and started fleeing the protocol was crystal clear: warn the escaping prisoner, and, if no response, shoot for the body mass,” said Public Service Association NSW General Secretary Stewart Little. “If Officer A had not followed this procedure he would have been reprimanded for allowing a dangerous prisoner to escape into the community. It now seems that the second the prisoner made a break for it, Officer A was damned either way: let a prisoner escape and face discipline or shoot and face a murder charge. That’s not a fair choice to inflict on anyone.” Mr Little said regardless of anyone’s view about the system, it was morally wrong to place responsibility on a single individual. “People can mount legitimate arguments against the current system that guides prisoner transfers in New South Wales. But it’s morally wrong to put a single man on trial for a system,” Mr Little said. “Officer A didn’t go to work that fateful day wanting to shoot anyone. His life has been ruined by this moment. He can’t work. His mental health and his family life has deteriorated. He is a victim, not a murderer. “Prison officers work incredibly hard in dangerous jobs to maintain the toughest part of a justice system we all benefit from. If they have to worry about having their lives ruined by a murder charge for following protocol they’ll quit in mass numbers and not return. “A core responsibility of prison officers is to escort prisoners in the community, usually in a hospital or a court setting. “Prison officers are deployed with firearms in the expectation they may have to use them in an escape situation. If they are not to use weapons, they should not be deployed with them. If they are to use them, they should have clarity they will not be charged with murder.”
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