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Changes to protect emergency staff from assaults not enough

Changes to protect emergency staff from assaults not enough

Changes to the Sentencing Act this week mean attacks on emergency personnel will be considered as aggravating factors during sentencing but the changes don’t go far enough, warns the PSA.

Amendments to the Sentencing Act passed by Parliament mean assaults on police and ambulance officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses and other emergency personnel will be considered as aggravating factors when judges make sentencing decisions.

“The PSA welcomes the changes and it will provide some comfort to people delivering valuable emergency services. However, the PSA argued strongly in our submission to the Law and Order committee that other public sector workers at risk of assault should be covered by the Act,” says National Secretary Brenda Pilott.

There is growing evidence of increasing levels of violence directed against public sector workers. Research carried out by PSA delegate indicates that, on one site alone, 179 acts of violence against staff occurred in a 13 month period.

“Public sector workers in a range of front-line occupations, including ACC, customs and social workers, are regularly subject to assault. We hear stories of staff being bitten, kicked, pushed against walls and having various projectiles thrown at them,” says Brenda Pilott.

Fishery officers are routinely threatened with or subject to violence as they try to prevent poaching and illegal fishing. Health and safety advisers, especially those involved in biosecurity, have reported significant levels of assaults.

“These are people in high-risk occupations that put themselves in danger for the good of New Zealand and the PSA hoped that the Act would have acknowledged their contribution to society,” adds Brenda Pilott.

The PSA’s full submission to the Law and Order Committee on the Sentencing (Aggravating Factors) Amendment Bill 2010 can be found here.


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