From today, people who seriously assault a public officer face spending up to 14 years in jail - more than double the maximum period that could be imposed under the old law.
Acting Premier Eric Ripper said the tough new law sent a clear message that assaults on police, nurses and other public officers might be punished by long sentences.
“The Criminal Law and Evidence Amendment Act increases maximum sentences for assaults on public officers, expands the definition of a public officer, removes automatic sentence remissions and ensures serious assaults are dealt with by superior courts,” Mr Ripper said.
“Under the law, the maximum penalty for grievous bodily harm on a public officer has increased from 10 to 14 years; assault while carrying a weapon or in company carries a penalty of up to 10 years; and assault has a penalty of up to seven years.
“In addition, the one-third automatic sentence remission is also removed, meaning judges are able to give the full penalty for the conviction.”
Previously, the maximum penalty available for grievous bodily harm on a public officer was 10 years but automatically reduced by a third to 6.67 years. Under the new law, the full 14-year sentence is available.
“Our Parliament, representing the community, expects people convicted of assaulting our officers to receive heavy penalties,” the Acting Premier said.
“These new laws give judges the power to imprison those found guilty of seriously assaulting a public officer for up to 14 years.
“The average sentence given in our courts for grievous bodily harm is two years and more when it is involves a police officer.
“By establishing a one-year minimum sentence, as suggested by the Opposition, we run the real risk of driving sentences down.
“These new laws need to be given a chance to take effect.
“To reflect the seriousness of these crimes, these laws will also ensure cases of aggravated assaults and grievous bodily harm on public officers are dealt with in the superior courts rather than a magistrate’s court.”
The definition of a public officer has also been extended to include private sector health workers, court security officers, prison officers and volunteer State emergency service workers.
The new law also includes situations where an officer is not on duty at the time of the assault, but when it can be shown the assault is carried out as a consequence of their role as a public officer.
The new law came into effect at 12.01am today (Sunday).
Acting Premier's office - 9222 8788