10 years jail for virus thugs

Nicolette BarbasSouth Western Times

People who threaten or assault frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic will now face up to 10 years jail under new laws.

The Criminal Code Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Bill 2020, passed by both houses of Parliament on Wednesday, puts enhanced measures in place for those who knowingly use the virus and/or its threat as part of their offending.

The law is designed to protect bus drivers, doctors, nurses, paramedics, police officers, prison officers and other emergency service workers from COVID-19 related assaults or threats.

Anyone who assaults an officer will face up to 10 years behind bars and those who threaten an officer face seven years.

Attorney General John Quigley said the tough new measures were necessary to provide protection for police officers and other frontline service providers in the face of potential threats or assaults involving COVID-19.

“Unfortunately we have seen a number of distressing reports of people across the country claiming they have COVID-19, deliberately coughing or spitting on innocent people who are simply doing their jobs,” he said.

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

Bunbury’s Brecken Health Care managing director and general practitioner Brenda Murrison said the protection of emergency staff while doing their job on the frontline was always of paramount importance.

“Emergency department staff probably suffer the most physical and verbal abuse, so I think this is a fantastic development for them,” Ms Murrison said.

“From a GP point of view, we are the ones who will have to run the respiratory clinics and have been told we have to have security if we run those clinics, so it is interesting timing.”

Police Minster Michelle Roberts said she was pleased all sides of politics came together to pass these urgent amendments.

“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,” Ms Roberts said.

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