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The family of slain paramedic, 29-year-old Steven Tougher, has called for tougher legislation targeting those who attack emergency service workers.

Tougher was allegedly stabbed to death whilst he was on break and sitting in the back of his ambulance outside Campbelltown McDonald’s at 5.30am on Friday 14 April 2023.

He was treated at the scene and taken to Liverpool Hospital, where he later died.

It is reported that he suffered 50 stab wounds.

21-year-old Jordan Fineanganofo has been charged with murder over the incident and remains in custody.

It is alleged that Fineanganofo pulled up his car alongside the ambulance, before pulling the rear doors of the emergency vehicle open and attacking.

Steven had only been a paramedic for 12 months and had just married his wife 5-weeks prior to his death.

His death has shocked many in the community, including those involved with NSW Ambulance.

The fundraising campaign for his family has already collected more than $450,000.

Steven’s father, Jeff Tougher, has appealed to the public via addressing the media, advocating for what he hopes to be named ‘Steven’s Law’.

He essentially is seeking for stronger legislation to be introduced, which may include mandatory prison sentences for paramedic assaults.

“I need you to back me in a bid to advocate for stronger laws to protect these people who serve the community with such passion and dedication,” he announced.

“Laws like mandatory life sentences for killing anyone in the line of duty. A mandatory prison term for assaulting these people. Perhaps three years. Regardless of circumstance or state of mind.”

Tougher hopes that if enacted, that the laws could extend to paramedics, teachers, nurses, firefighters, and defence personnel.

He stated: “we need to change the laws to protect those [who] put themselves out to make the community a better place…these laws should reflect the community concern to prevent these things in the future, and to give those workers the confidence to go to work, knowing they will be protected.”

Relevantly, circumstances in which a victim of an offence is a public official is already currently considered an ‘aggravating factor’ under section 21A of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW).

Section 21A(2)(a) provides that an aggravating factor includes where ‘the victim was a police officer, emergency services worker, correctional officer, judicial officer, council law enforcement officer, health worker, teacher, community worker, or other public official, exercising public or community functions and the offence arose because of the victim’s occupation or voluntary work.’

An aggravating factor is essentially a circumstance related to the crime which raises it’s severity or the culpability of the offender, which may lead to the court determining a more severe sentence.

Notably, in New South Wales, mandatory life sentences are applicable for those who murder a police officer, as provided by section 19B of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

This was introduced in 2011, following the Crimes Amendment (Murder of Police Officers) Bill.

A court is required to impose a sentence of imprisonment for life where the murder is committed whilst the police officer was executing their duty or as a consequence of, or in retaliation for, actions undertaken by that or any other police officer in the execution of their duty.

It must be proven beyond reasonable doubt that the person knew or ought reasonably to have known that the person killed was a police officer, and that they intended to kill the police officer or were engaged in criminal activity that risked serious harm to police officers.

Under this section, a person sentenced to imprisonment for life is to serve the sentence for the term of their natural life.

However, it will not apply where the person was under 18-years-old at the time the murder was committed, or where they had a significant cognitive impairment at that time.

The imposition of a mandatory sentence essentially removes judicial discretion, in that the court is not able to lessen a potential sentence on the basis of possible mitigating circumstances.

At the time the law was introduced, it received significant criticism including from former Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery KC who found that mandatory sentencing fails to deter offenders.

He also noted that it lengthens proceedings as guilty pleas are unlikely, with judges unable to consider potential mitigating circumstances which would ordinarily see a sentence reduced.

Michael Allan Jacobs, aged 49-years-old at the time, was the first person to be sentenced to life imprisonment under this section in 2013.

Jacobs shot and killed Senior Constable Rixon, a 40-year-old father of six, during what was supposed to have been a regulation traffic stop and breath test in West Tamworth.

Rixon had recognised Jacobs was a disqualified driver and followed his vehicle, before pulling it over.

Jacobs shot Rixon once in the chest, with the bullet travelling straight through Rixon’s left wrist and puncturing both his heart and lung.

Whilst the officer returned fire and Jacobs was critically injured, he ultimately recovered from a hit in the leg, abdomen, and shoulder.

During sentencing, Justice Button noted that the case met all criteria prescribed in section 19B of the Act, with Jacobs acting with intention to kill the officer.

By Poppy Morandin.

Image credit: B-E

Published on 28/04/2023

AUTHOR Poppy Morandin

Poppy Morandin is the managing law clerk and an integral part of the team of criminal lawyers at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia . She's also a part of CDLA's content article production team. Poppy is passionate about law reform and criminal justice.

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