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Statistics for Assault Police Revealed: The Law, Defences and Penalties for Assault Police

The number of Assault Police offences have been revealed at a NSW parliamentary inquiry.

In what should be positive news, the rates of alcohol-fuelled assaults against officers have declined, while the overall rate of violence against Police officers has remained steady.

However, some are still calling for greater powers for Police. This is despite countless recent incidents of Police misconduct.

What are statistics for Assault Police?

Parliament heard that there were a total of 2483 assault police offences last year. This is in line with the 10-year average of 2436, according to data collected by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

Significantly, while the number of assault police charges did not increase, the percentage of these offences that were related to alcohol fell, from about 70 per cent a decade ago, to below 50 per cent.

No doubt the introduction of lockout laws in the Sydney CBD had a large role to play in this. Police Association of NSW research officer Dr Kate Linklater confirmed as much when speaking to the Committee on Law and Safety.

What is Assault Police?

Section 60 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) defines Assault policeas intentionally or recklessly causing a police officer to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence while they are acting in the execution of their duty.

In order to establish the charge, Police must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. The accused assaulted someone;
  2. That person was a police officer;
  3. That police officer was acting in the execution of their duty.

It is the third point above that is often used by experienced Assault Police Lawyers to defend this charge. If the Court accepts an argument that Police were not acting in the execution of their duty, then the charge will be dismissed and the Accused found ‘not guilty’.

One of the common defences to Assault Police charges is ‘self-defence’. If a person was responding reasonably to protect themselves or another person from unlawful violence by Police officers, then they can also be found ‘not guilty’.

Alternatively, an Assault Police charge can be downgraded to a charge of ‘Resist Officer’ or ‘Hinder Police’. This will involve your lawyer sending Police ‘representations’.

What are the Penalties for Assault Police?

The maximum penalty for Assault Police is 5 years imprisonment.

If the assault caused a physical injury, this is increased to 7 years imprisonment.

If the assault caused grievous bodily harm or wounding, the maximum penalty is further increased to 12 years imprisonment.

Looking at statistics for cases heard in the Local Court over the last 5 years, only 10% of people received no conviction for Assault Police. By contrast, almost 30% ofsentences were some form of imprisonment and almost 20% of offenders were sentenced to full-time gaol.

The remaining offenders all received convictions.

Community reaction

While this was welcome news to most people, Police Association president Tony King took the opportunity to urge members of Parliament to increase Police powers.

Mr King suggested enacting legislation that would allow police to test suspects who had allegedly bitten or spat at police officers for diseases.

This would allow Police to conduct extremely invasive procedures on persons who had not yet been found guilty or convicted of any offence.

This is despite a number of recent cases of police misconduct.

Last week there were calls from civil rights groups throughout the country for an independent investigation into Police misconduct after officers used a vehicle to run over a man before appearing to stomp on his head while he was held down.

The man is currently in hospital and has been placed in an induced coma.

Video of the incident showed the man walking away from a police car before the vehicle accelerated harshly and ran him over.

The man’s father later revealed that he had been hospitalised for severe mental illness shortly before the incident.  

Following the incident, Ruth Barson, the legal director at the Human Rights Law Centre stated:

“Professional Standards Command is code for police investigating police. This should be referred to IBAC, the independent police watchdog, for investigation. Time and again we have seen that when police investigate their own, impunity results.”

In conclusion…

The lack of an increase in the number of assault police offences should be welcomed by all sectors of the community.

Given the pandemic in 2020, it would be reasonable to assume that these figures would either stay steady or even decrease this year.

With that in mind, there appears little basis for an expansion of Police powers.

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