Whether you like the police or not, on most occasions, officers are doing their best to work with the community to promote public safety and reduce both crime and violence, in accordance with strict guidelines attached to their profession.
For this reason, the responsible thing to do if approached by an officer is to treat them with respect.
While most people are compliant to this, increasingly, cases are emerging that show citizens reacting to authorities with a high degree of abuse.
Such is the case of a Victorian man who assaulted a police officer with a metal baseball bat, leaving the officer bleeding on the pavement.
In fact, so malicious was the attack that the man behind the crime was sentenced to three years and two months in jail.
According to reports, the incident took place in October last year during a strict COVID-19 lockdown during which Senior Constable Rowan Baldman and Constable William Ringin were speaking to members of the public about wearing masks in Warrnambool, a city along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.
At this point, a follower of conspiracy theories from Victoria’s south-west, Steven Cleary, was alerted to their interactions via walkie talkie and allegedly took it upon himself to attend to the officers.
While the constables were trying to identify a person not wearing a mask, Mr Cleary, 50, stepped out of his car, took a metal baseball bat that was sitting in the backseat and stormed toward the officers.
Catching sight of the armed man, the officers drew their tasers and asked Mr Cleary several times to step away or risk being tasered.
Nevertheless, the man continued to approach, and when asked again to retreat, he hastily dashed forward.
At this point, the person police were attending to about not wearing a mask grasped Constable Ringin’s gun with both hands.
Constable Baldman rushed to his colleague’s aid, now caught in a brawl with the member of the public when suddenly Mr Clearly swiped the baseball bat into his head.
It is reported that the constable fell to the ground where the crazed man then repeatedly bashed the officer.
But the attacker’s spite did not stop there.
In a moment, he seized a taser and proceeded to shoot Constable Ringin with one prong.
The man then attempted to taser the constable again, however, was met with multiple rounds of capsicum spray.
Mr Cleary was eventually detained, during which he continued to resist the officers and refused to put his hands behind his back.
“I am the king…you are dogs…this is an act of war,” Mr Cleary said.
Constable Baldman was left with a heavily-bleeding head, so severe he believed he may die.
His thumb was also broken in the altercation, which required specialist surgery.
Court Hears Baseball-Bat-Wielding Man Suffers from Delusional Condition and Did Not Believe COVID-19 Was Real
In July 2022, Mr Cleary faced court over his assault where it was heard the man, a disability support pensioner, suffers from a delusional mental condition, pursued conspiracy theories and believed COVID-19 was invented.
Additionally, it was disclosed the man had endured a traumatic childhood, had no social connections and mostly stayed at home.
Both officers also provided testimonies, fighting through tears to share their victim impact statements.
Specifically, they conveyed their suffering ongoing trauma in the incident’s aftermath and how they and their family now fear for their safety at work.
Constable Baldman also revealed his fear that he may die on the pavement that day.
Ultimately, Mr Cleary pleaded guilty to the charges of attacking an officer and intentionally causing injury to them.
In handing down the attacker’s sentence, Judge Anne Hassan acknowledged Cleary’s severe mental illness, but refused his request for a community corrections order.
He was sentenced to three years and two months’ jail, with a non-parole period of one year and 10 months.
Nevertheless, the sentence was deemed “inadequate” by Victoria Police’s Chief Commissioner Shane Patton, who called for a formal review.
“I am disappointed with this outcome and have asked for a submission to be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions requesting an appeal based on an inadequate sentence,” he said in a statement.
The sentiment was backed by Police Association Secretary Wayne Gatt, who also labelled the sentence “disappointing”.
“These officers were potentially moments away from the death,” he said.
“I worry about what prospective police officers think when they see results like this.”
Assault Police Officer Offences in New South Wales
It is against the law to assault a police officer in the execution of their duty – and this is irrespective of whether or not actual bodily harm is occasioned to the officer.
If you are in NSW, section 60 of the Crimes Act 1990 prescribes a maximum penalty of five years in jail where an officer is assaulted in the execution of duty and no actual bodily harm is occasioned to them.
However, if during the assault, actual bodily harm is occasioned to the officer, the maximum penalty for an offence rises to seven years in jail with a standard three-year non-parole period.
Moreover, where an officer is assaulted in the execution of duty and grievous bodily harm is occasioned and the person is reckless as to causing the actual bodily harm to the officer or any other person involved, the maximum penalty again rises to 12 years in jail with a standard five-year non-parole period.
By Sahar Adatia.
Image credit: Adam Calaitzis