New law aims to protect prison officers

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Nicolette BarbasSouth Western Times
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Corrective Services minister Francis Logan at Greenough Regional Prison.
Camera IconCorrective Services minister Francis Logan at Greenough Regional Prison. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian, Geoff Vivian The Geraldton GuardianPicture: Geoff Vivian

Prisoners who assault guards then refuse a mandatory test for infectious diseases will have an extra six months added to their sentence, under proposed new laws.

On Tuesday the State Government announced amendments to the Prison Act 1981 which brings the legislation in line with protections offered to WA police officers.

WA Prison Officers’ Union assistant secretary Paul Ledingham said the union welcomed the announcement and had been campaigning for the change for more than five years.

“Given the nature of the work prison officers do, somewhere today across WA in one of our prisons, a prison officer will be spat at, this is the reality of the job,” Mr Ledingham said.

“Prisoners know that by assaulting an officer they can cause that officer up to six months of stress waiting for test results.”

WA Police Union president Harry Arnott said that while The Mandatory Testing (Infectious Diseases) Bill 2014 had been highly beneficial for police officers, it had come with its own challenges.

“This is an improvement as it allows the officer to get back on with their life after a potentially life-altering assault, however, we are currently experiencing some significant issues with the process,” Mr Arnott said.

“Doctors are refusing to take blood from offenders which is making this legislation ineffective and it needs to be urgently addressed by the State Government as this is not in keeping with spirit of the legislation.”

However, Mr Ledingham said the new legislation for prison officers would tackle this issue.

“Prisoners will be tested as soon as possible and if they refuse, they will face additional jail time and a $3000 fine,” he said.

Corrective Services Minister Francis Logan said as part of their duties, prison officers could be exposed to bodily fluids, putting them at risk of contracting diseases like hepatitis C and HIV.

“Our prison officers work in highly challenging and complex environments and this proposed new law takes the burden off them and offers some sense of surety,” Mr Logan said.

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