Daniel Andrews Defends Emergency Staff Bash Laws
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has defended his government's emergency worker abuse crackdown after criticism the laws would ignore the impacts of family violence and mental health on offenders.
Law experts on Tuesday criticised the Labor government's mandatory sentencing plan, seeking to tighten special reason exemptions and give offenders' life circumstances less weight in court.
"I can't help but think some of the people who are critical of the actions we announced yesterday might have a different view, maybe, if they speak to the paramedics and police officers that I've spoken to," Mr Andrews said.
"The stories of abuse and injury (don't) just affect them, they affect the people that love them, they affect families and they ultimately affect all of us.
"We believe we've got the balance right here and the bill will be introduced."
Assaults on police, paramedics, firefighters or emergency department medicos are to become category one offences - the same as murder and rape.
The government will also remove substance impairment and psychosocial immaturity as special reasons to be exempt from mandatory jail time for those between 18 and 21 years old.
Furthermore, the circumstances of offenders - such as traumatic childhoods - will become peripheral concerns for the judiciary.
The laws are likely to pass parliament once introduced, with Opposition Leader Matthew Guy saying he won't stand in the way.
Sentencing Advisory Council chair Arie Freiberg said it's unreasonable to disregard an offender's mental capacity in sentencing because emergency services were often called for people in distressed, injured or inebriated states.
"A large proportion of those in jail have suffered family violence or sexual abuse in their own lives and what we're doing is perpetuating this, particularly where they're further separated from their children," Mr Freiberg said.
"The irony of these cases in the light of spending billions on family violence and recognising it and mental illness is a really important point."
The Law Institute of Victoria is seeking an urgent meeting with Attorney-General Martin Pakula over the changes, with president Belinda Wilson questioning why "these assaults should be in the same category as murder and rape".
Meanwhile, the Victorian branch of the Transport Workers Union wants the laws extended to attacks on bus drivers, citing a spike in physical and verbal assaults.
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