By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
Like it or not, when it comes to the criminal justice process, police are considered the gatekeepers and guardians of law enforcement – the most visible representation of the state’s power to both protect citizens and also control them.
Most combine what is good in our culture – they answer the noble call to duty with enthusiasm, they practice diplomacy in settling disputes between adversaries making each feel like the resolution was fair, and for the most part, they are rational and reasonable when performing their duties.
Nevertheless, in some cases, incivility towards them by members of the public reigns, derogatory comments are hurled and offensive actions performed as their authority is challenged as never before.
If you thought this was uncommon, last week saw two men arrested and charged, accused of attacking officers during a vehicle stop in Sydney’s southern suburb of Caringbah.
It is reported the driver, who was extremely hostile, reached through the open window and allegedly punched a senior constable in the face, then swung his legs up and kicked him.
How the Incident Unfolded: Police Pull Over Two Men Screaming Abuse and Making Offensive Gestures from Passing Car
As The Leader reports, at around 10am on 29 July 2019, two officers from the Sutherland Police Area Command, who were on foot patrolling the Kingsway, noticed two men allegedly screaming abuse and making offensive gestures from a passing car.
The policemen quickly got in their vehicle and caught up to the Toyota Camry, before eventually pulling it over in President Lane.
Alcohol and drug tests were taken, at which point the driver, who was extremely aggressive, allegedly reached through the open window and punched a senior constable in the face.
He then allegedly swung his legs up and kicked him, before also kicking and punching the second senior constable.
At this point, the passenger yelled at the officers, while he attempted to prevent his friend’s arrest.
Other police soon arrived at the scene, however, leading to both men being removed from the car and handcuffed.
Two Men Charged with Assaulting Police, Resisting Arrest and Offensive Conduct
The two men, aged 32 and 29, were taken to Sutherland Police Station and charged.
The 32-year-old driver was charged with two counts of assault police, resist arrest and offensive conduct.
His 29-year-old passenger was charged with wilfully obstruct police.
Both were refused bail by police.
Social Media Users Quick to Express Sentiment on Violence Towards Officers Following Facebook Post by NSW Police Force
Meanwhile, NSW Police Force took to Facebook to inform of the arrest, with online users quick to share their sentiment around the incident.
“Poor officers…again just doing their job and being subjected to such stupid behaviour. What is wrong with people?” one user wrote.
“Hopefully violence against a police officer carries a big fine/sentence,” another person commented.
“You fools! You need to respect authority no matter what,” another social media user wrote.
In NSW, assaulting a police officer in their execution of duty is taken extremely seriously, so much so that it carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail.
According to the law, it is an offence to assault, throw a missile at, stalk, harass or intimidate a police officer while they are carrying out their work duties.
An assault is understood as acting in a manner that causes the officer to fear unlawful personal violence.
This can involve actions such as making threats towards them or touching them without their permission and in a way that causes them to fear for their personal safety.
Commonly, these assaults tend to occur more frequently in the process of someone being arrested, where they threated or touch a police officer.
In NSW, it is against the law to assault a police officer.
Assaulting a police officer in their execution of duty offences are taken very seriously and this is primarily due to the position of vulnerability that such dangerous behaviour places police in.
Similarly, such offences are taken seriously also to make clear to the community that the courts will not hesitate to treat assaults on police severely.
In fact, it is not uncommon that the slightest contact with a police officer trying to carry out their duty can result in a person getting charged for assaulting police.
In NSW, the law on assaulting a police officer in their execution of duty is reflected in section 60 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
The penalty for assaulting, harassing, intimidating, stalking or throwing a missile at a police officer while the police officer is in the execution of his/her duty at the time will face a maximum penalty of up to 5-years imprisonment if no actual bodily harm is caused to that officer, under section 60(1) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
There is then a maximum penalty of up to 7-years imprisonment to anyone who does this during a public disorder, under section 60(1A) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
Further to that, there is a maximum penalty of up to 7-years imprisonment to anyone who assault a police officer while the officer is in the execution of his/her duty, and by reason of that assault causes the officer actual bodily harm, under section 60(2) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
The offence under s60(2) outlined above carries a 3-year standard non parole period, which means for this offence, the offender will face a prescribed mandatory 3-years full-time imprisonment before being eligible for release from prison on a parole period if, and only if the offending conduct is classified by the Judge as falling in the mid-range of objective criminality for offences of this kind.
One of the most important things to know however is that the standard non-parole period is not a mandatory requirement to be imposed on offenders who do fall in that mid-range of objective criminality for this offence. It is meant to be used by the sentencing Judge as a guidepost to assist in coming to a fair sentence for an offender.
There is then a maximum penalty of up to 9-years imprisonment to anyone who does this during a public disorder, under section 60(2A) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
Then there are harsher penalties to those who do this in more serious circumstances and injuries.
There is a maximum penalty of up to 12-years imprisonment to anyone who causes either grievous bodily harm or wounding to a police officer while that officer is in the execution of his/her duty if the offender realised the possibility of causing actual bodily harm to the officer at the time but committed the assault anyway, under section 60(3) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
The offence under section 60(3) noted above carries a 5-year standard non parole period.
There is then a maximum penalty of up to 14-years imprisonment to anyone who commits this offence during a public disorder, under section 60(3A) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
If any of the above offences are committed during a time the police officer was not on duty at the time, the officer will still be considered to be in the execution of his/her duty if the police officer carried out actions as a consequence of or in retaliation for actions undertaken in the execution of his/her duty, or because he/she is a police officer. (Section 60(4) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW)).
Where a defence to assaulting police in execution of duty offence applies, the charge will be dismissed and the accused acquitted by the court, unless the charge is withdrawn by police earlier through strategic negotiations.
Some defences to this charge includes, self-defence, where the police officer was acting illegally, where the accused person did not have the requisite mental element of realising the possibility of causing actual bodily harm at the time due to intoxication or drugs (if the charge is under section 60(3) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW)).
Other defences to this charge include necessity or duress or the mental illness defence.
Our Sydney based criminal defence lawyers are experts in assault cases who offer to provide a free first consultation. Call our friendly staff if you have a question on 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218.