Page 3713 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 24 August 2011

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This bill recognises the unique responsibility that the territory places upon those acting in the role of ACT police officers. Those officers are required to get in harm’s way when an incident occurs, a unique obligation amongst all professions in the ACT and one which the Canberra Liberals believe deserves overt recognition.

Turning to the specific mechanics of the bill, I would like to make a few brief points. As I stated, the bill adds to the list of aggravated assaults available to the courts. They are not mandatory; they are available options. Some classes of assault already have aggravated sections. This merely adds to the categories that already exist for aggravated offences. Thus we create a full range of offences that can be utilised rather than the two extremes that are the only current options.

Secondly, the operation of the bill will still need the elements of the simple offence to be made out. Next, the aggravated offence only applies when an officer is carrying out their duties as an officer. Lastly, and importantly, the legislation is balanced by the provision that:

… the offence is not an aggravated offence against a police officer if the defendant proves, on the balance of probabilities, the defendant did not know, and could not reasonably have known, that the person was a police officer.

Furthermore, the inclusion of a wide range of alternative judgments gives the courts the ability to judge each case on its individual merits and act accordingly, again reinforcing a balanced, reasonable solution.

Simon Corbell stated in the Canberra Times on 24 July that, unfortunately for police officers, alcohol-related violence, resistance to arrest et cetera are all realities of the front line. ACT Labor think it is just part of the job and have previously stated that they will not, in principle, countenance extra protection for the police officers who protect us. This is the key difference, Madam Assistant Speaker.

The Canberra Liberals believe in giving our police all the protection we can. They alone are asked to address the most violent of our citizens. They alone step up to that task. I, or any other member of the public, am able to walk away from a violent incident. In fact, in many cases, the proper, appropriate and sometimes only course is to call the police, and the police will answer that call. They will do so with bravery beyond what many of us will ever get to show and face situations many of us will never get to know. They do so on our behalf and at our request. They protect us and our city and our community. Now it is time for our community to protect them.

This bill offers genuine support in a legal sense to ensure that offenders who assault police will face the courts with the full backing of a law that makes it crystal clear that it is not acceptable to assault police—it is not just part of the job—and they will face very stiff penalties for their actions. This bill also sends a message from this place that the community has had enough—enough of the senseless violent assaults on police officers while they are protecting or serving our city and enough of us asking our police to take risks for us, face dangers for us, and take injuries for us and to do so without any special protection from us.

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