Higher penalties to protect frontline workers from COVID-19 related attacks

Frontline workers will be protected from coronavirus-related assaults and threats following the introduction of new penalties, the McGowan Government has announced.

Higher penalties have been passed under the Criminal Code Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Bill for assaulting or threatening public officers and workers.

Under the penalties, someone convicted of assaulting a frontline worker where they know they have COVID-19 or create a belief, suspicion or fear that they have the coronavirus will now face up to 10 years in jail.

Threats to injure, harm or endanger a frontline worker by exposing them to COVID-19 will now also carry a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.

The penalties are designed to protect people working in services including police officers, doctors and nurses, paramedics, bus drivers and prison officers where they are exposed to COVID-19.

The Government said the amendments have sunset provisions, indicating that they will no longer come to effect 12 months after commencement.

Police Minister Michelle Roberts said frontline staff have stepped forward during the pandemic and needed to be able to continue their work in the community.

“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,” Mrs Roberts said.

“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.”

Attorney General John Quigley said the measures were necessary to protect frontline workers.

“This kind of disgraceful behaviour is unacceptable, presents a serious risk to health and safety, and will not be tolerated,” Mr Quigley said.

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