On behalf of the Board and members of Paramedics Australasia, I endorse the comments of industry leaders yesterday that there must be further strengthening of the legislation to ensure mandatory gaol sentences are strictly applied against offenders who assault emergency workers.
The Parliament of Victoria enacted this legislation with overwhelming community support and the expectation was very clear that this would provide a layer of protection to emergency workers who are being assaulted on a regular basis.
The decision by a Magistrate yesterday to apply the exceptional circumstances provision to allow a man who bashed two paramedics to escape a mandatory six-month gaol sentence is unacceptable on the basis of his personal circumstances when he was also high on a cocktail of drugs.
The guiding principles of sentencing in criminal law are specific and general deterrence. Specific deterrence is directed at the individual perpetrator to ensure they do not repeat the offence, while even more importantly in situations such as this, general deterrence is an overarching policy focussed on ensuring the community is acutely aware that abhorrent behaviour of this kind will not be tolerated and that everyone is dissuaded from ever considering these types of actions. Additionally, on a point which goes to the heart of this matter, the general deterrence principle should not only deter anyone from behaving in this manner, it should also be a beacon for many to ensure that they do not put themselves in the position where their state of mind is so substance-affected that they could act in this way. As occurred yesterday, it should never be an excuse to claim that you were so affected by drugs that your behaviour should be less culpable when your individual and autonomous decision-making placed you in that very position.
As the peak body representing paramedics in Australasia, we feel for our colleagues who have suffered this life-changing event and extend our love and support and stand with our proud profession and the entire community in saying that this must be enough. If Parliament speaks as the representative of the community, as it has done with this legislation, then a mandatory gaol sentence must actually mean what it says.
President, Paramedics Australasia