My matter is for the Attorney-General. It follows a 16 December County Court appeal decision which upheld James Haberfield’s non-custodial sentence for his vicious January 2019 assault on two Victorian paramedics even though Haberfield’s attack was fuelled by his entirely voluntary decision to take a cocktail of illicit drugs at a music festival and was so violent that it left the paramedics, collectively, with multiple injuries and substantial, ongoing psychological trauma.
As members will know, the continued, widespread attacks on emergency workers are of enormous concern to Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party. As one example of that, a motion I introduced here on 16 October last year specifically addressed the lack of practical translation into court judgements of Premier Andrews’s commitment of 22 May 2018 that ‘if you attack and injure an emergency worker, jail will mean jail’. During the debate on that motion I said the Haberfield appeal outcome would not alter the fact that the current legislation has such discretionary scope that it will continue to allow perpetrators of these outrageous assaults to avoid jail. This was notwithstanding the fact that the Premier had himself urged the Director of Public Prosecution’s (DPP) appeal, believing the government’s legislation ensured the likes of Haberfield should receive minimum sentences. My prediction, sadly, was absolutely correct.
I do note Judge Tinney’s observation that the Haberfield appeal case was particularly complex and the existence of the changed legislation presented him with some invidious choices about whether or not to impose a mandatory jail term. Nevertheless, he still ultimately resolved these in favour of the offender. He also pointed out that even the DPP conceded the legislation left open to him a number of non-custodial sentencing options.
I will say that our party is encouraged by the mandatory sentence applied in the Macintire case in late January. We are also increasingly hearing that strengthened legislation is imminent. In light of all this, the action I seek is the Attorney-General’s confirmation of whether the government will do what the Premier suggested in September may happen if the appeal in Haberfield’s case was unsuccessful—namely, review and potentially change its minimum sentencing legislation for assaults on emergency workers.
Like many Victorians, I want to know if the perpetrators of these attacks will continue to avoid minimum sentences or if the balance will be urgently redressed so there is actually a meaningful deterrent and so that greater rights are finally afforded to the victims rather than the perpetrators of these cowardly and shameful assaults.