Tough new penalties to protect frontline workers from COVID-19 related assaults or threats have passed both Houses of Parliament.
The Criminal Code Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Bill 2020 provides higher penalties for assaulting and threatening public officers and certain other officers delivering frontline services – including police officers, doctors and nurses, paramedics, bus drivers, and prison officers – in circumstances of actual or threatened exposure to COVID-19.
Someone convicted of assaulting a frontline worker where they know they have COVID-19 or create a belief, suspicion or fear that they have COVID-19 will now face up to 10 years in jail.
Threats to injure, endanger or harm a frontline worker by exposing them to COVID-19 now carries a higher maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment.
As these amendments are COVID-19 specific, the Bill includes sunset provisions which provide that the amendments will cease to have effect 12 months after commencement, a point in time we all hope COVID-19 is well behind us.
As stated by Police Minister Michelle Roberts:
“Our frontline officers and staff have without hesitation stepped forward, to look after us during these extraordinary times.
“We’ve moved quickly to increase the penalties and send a very strong message to those in the community who would engage in this vile behaviour.
“I’m pleased all sides of politics have come together at this critical time to pass these urgent amendments and show those on the frontline fighting this pandemic, that we will not tolerate harm coming to them.”
As stated by Attorney General John Quigley:
“These tough new measures are necessary to provide protection for police officers and other frontline service providers in the face of potential threats or assaults involving COVID-19.
“This kind of disgraceful behaviour is unacceptable, presents a serious risk to health and safety, and will not be tolerated.”
Police Minister’s office – 6552 6900