Local Member for South Perth, John McGrath, spoke in Parliament yesterday in support of a private member’s Bill, from the State Opposition, demanding mandatory gaol time for people who are found guilty of assaulting police officers.
“There are no two ways about looking at this issue,” Mr McGrath said, “We cannot allow our police officers to have their authority and, therefore, their ability to do their job, undermined.
“A safe and functioning society depends upon its police force. An attack upon a serving police officer is an attack upon society itself.”
Mr McGrath said there had been a recent spate of serious, violent offences against police officers, where the perpetrators had been seen as just getting a ‘smack’ on the wrist.
“People in the electorate of South Perth want law and order to be maintained and the police need our support to be able to achieve this,” he said. “This Bill ensures that if you do the crime you do the time, it holds the promise of offering a meaningful and effective deterrent against the increasing incidence of violence against police officers.”
The Acts Amendment Act (Assaults on Police Officers) Bill 2008 was introduced by the Member for Hillarys and Shadow Minister for Police and Community Safety, Rob Johnson. The Bill sets out a regime of minimum mandatory prison sentences for people who assault police officers ranging from 3 months to 12 months, depending on the severity of the charge brought against the accused, as influenced by the severity of the injury inflicted on the victim.
Mr McGrath spoke in support of the Bill and quoted one case where a person found guilty of assaulting two police officers had received a 12-month community based order:
“The offender had put one officer in a headlock, dragged her along the ground, removed her taser stun gun, and fired it into her body. He doused her in capsicum spray and then went after her partner. He gouged her partner’s eyes while trying to remove his pistol.”
“The penalty in that case was a disgrace,” said Mr McGrath. “The offender should have gone to gaol.”
The Minister for Police, while agreeing there were problems for the Government in protecting police officers, opposed minimum mandatory sentences. He defended the Government’s alternative plan of increasing the maximum penalty for such offences.
Mr McGrath said ‘the public are fed up with thuggish behaviour and believe the situation won’t improve until harsher punishment is handed down. Official police figures showed that violent offences had risen 19 per cent in the last two years.
“Meanwhile, the number of officers leaving the force has increased from 206 in 2003 to 391 officers leaving last year,” he said. “Police officers seem to be losing faith in getting the basic support they need to do their job.
“Society is paying the price of violence against the police going unchecked; violence against the very authorities who are meant to be responsible for controlling that type of behaviour.”