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Sentencing Council

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​Assaults on emergency services workers

The Attorney General has asked us to review the sentencing for offences involving assaults on police officers, correctional staff, youth justice officers, emergency services workers and health workers and make recommendations for any reform we consider appropriate.

On this page, we provide background information on the offences we will consider in this review; the maximum penalties and non-parole periods for these offences; and preliminary sentencing data for these offences.

The offences

In this review, we will consider relevant offences including those contained in the following sections of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). These offences may be committed against police officers or other law enforcement officers, or third parties associated with them:

  • Section 58 (second paragraph): Assault, resist, or wilfully obstruct an officer while in the execution of his or her duty, or any person acting in aid of an officer
  • Section 60: Assault and other actions against police officers
  • Section 60A: Assault and other actions against law enforcement officers (other than police officers)
  • Section 60B: Actions against third parties connected with law enforcement officers
  • Section 546C: Resist or hinder, or incite any person to assault, resist or hinder, a police officer in the execution of his or her duty

Some of these sections contain multiple offences, which range in seriousness based on factors such as the degree of harm inflicted on the victim (for example, actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm), and the context in which the offence occurred (for example, during a public disorder).

The offences contained in section 60A may be committed against a law enforcement officer (other than a police officer). A "law enforcement officer" is defined in section 60AA. This definition includes, among others, correctional officers, prosecutors, certain court officers, and animal inspectors. It does not include other emergency services personnel, like health workers or firefighters.

In this review, we will also consider offences that may be committed against any person, in the context of resisting an arrest. These are contained in the following sections of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW):

  • Section 33(2): Wound or cause grievous bodily harm to any person with intent to resist arrest
  • Section 58 (third paragraph): Assault any person with intent to resist or prevent lawful apprehension or detainer

We will also consider offences, contained in a separate Act, which apply to ambulance officers.

The ACT has recently passed the Crimes (Protection of Frontline Community Service Providers) Amendment Act 2020 (ACT). This Act created a new offence of assault of a "frontline community service provider". This is defined to include a police officer, protective service officer, corrections worker, and a member of an emergency service. The Act also created new offences relating to driving a motor vehicle at police. We will consider these offences in this review.

Sentencing regime

In the table below, we set out the maximum penalties and standard non-parole periods (where applicable) for certain assault offences. We include the offences we list above, as well as "general" assault offences (which may be committed against any person), for comparison. All offences are contained in the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) unless stated otherwise.

ConductVictim
CircumstancesMaximum penalty (imprisonment)Standard non-parole period
Assault
any personN/A2 years (s 61)N/A

with intent to commit a serious indictable offence5 years (s 58, first paragraph)​N/A
with intent to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension or detainer of any person for any offence5 years (s 58, third paragraph)​N/A

during a large-scale public disorder5 years (s 59A(1))​N/A
Assault, resist, or wilfully obstructa constable, or other peace officer, custom-house officer, prison officer, sheriff's officer, or bailiff, or any person acting in aid of such officerN/A5 years (s 58, second paragraph)N/A
Resist or hinder, or incite any person to assault, resist or hinder a police officerN/A1 year (s 546C)N/A
Obstruct or hinder
​an ambulance officer
N/A​
2 years (s 67J(1), Health Services Act 1997)​N/A


by an act of violence​​5 years (s 67J(2), Health Services Act 1997)
​N/A
Assault, throw a missile at, stalk, harass or intimidate
a police officerN/A5 years (s 60(1))N/A
during a public disorder7 years (s 60(1A))​N/A
a law enforcement officer (other than a police officer)N/A5 years (s 60A(1))​N/A
Assault, stalk, harass or intimidateany person with whom a law enforcement officer has a domestic relationshipwith the intention of causing the law enforcement officer to fear physical or mental harm5 years (s 60B(1)) N/A
Assault occasioning actual bodily harmany personN/A5 years (s 59(1))N/A
in the company of another person or persons7 years (s 59(2))​N/A
during a large-scale public disorder7 years (s 59A(2))​N/A
a police officerN/A7 years (s 60(2))3 years
during a public disorder9 years (s 60(2A))N/A
a law enforcement officer (other than a police officer)N/A7 years (s 60A(2))N/A
Woundingany personreckless as to causing actual bodily harm to that or any other person7 years (s 35(4))3 years
reckless as to causing actual bodily harm to that or any other person; in the company of another person or persons10 years (s 35(3))4 years
Grievous bodily harmany personN/A2 years (s 54)N/A
reckless as to causing actual bodily harm to that or any other person10 years (s 35(2))4 years
reckless as to causing actual bodily harm to that or any other person; in the company of another person or persons14 years (s 35(1))5 years
Grievous bodily harm or woundingany personwith intent to cause grievous bodily harm to that or any other person25 years (s 33(1))7 years
with intent to resist or prevent his or her (or another person's) lawful arrest or detention25 years (s 33(2))7 years
a police officerreckless as to causing actual bodily harm to that officer or any other person12 years (s 60(3))5 years
reckless as to causing actual bodily harm to that officer or any other person; during a public disorder14 years (s 60(3A)) N/A
a law enforcement officer (other than a police officer)reckless as to causing actual bodily harm to that officer or any other person12 years (s 60A(3)) N/A


Sentencing data

We will be examining detailed sentencing data in this review. However, for the purposes of aiding submissions, we provide preliminary sentencing data for each offence in the tables below. 

Please note the time periods for data from the Local Court, and District and Supreme Courts, are different. We have not calculated the number of offenders sentenced to imprisonment as a percentage of overall offenders where there are less than 100 sentenced offenders. All offences are contained in the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) unless stated otherwise.

Law enforcement and emergency services related offences

OffenceNumber of offenders sentenced in the NSW Local Court between January 2016 and December 2019Number and proportion of offenders sentenced to imprisonment in the Local CourtNumber of offenders sentenced in the NSW District Court and NSW Supreme Court between January 2008 and September 2019Number and proportion of offenders sentenced to imprisonment in the NSW District Court and NSW Supreme Court
Assault with intent to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension or detainer of any person (s 58, third paragraph)211000
Assault, resist, or wilfully obstruct any officer or any person acting in aid of such officer (s 58, second paragraph)7,076993 (14%)217
Resists or hinder or incite any person to assault, resist or hinder a police officer (s 546C)1,88692 (5%)21
Obstruct or hinder an ambulance officer (s 67J(1), Health Services Act 1997)
​17
​2
​0
​0
Obstruct or hinder an ambulance officer by an act of violence (s 67J(2), Health Services Act 1997)
​36
​3
​0
​0
Assault, throw a missile at, stalk, harass or intimidate a police officer (s 60(1))

Assault: 2,222

Harass: 55

Intimidate: 1,005

Throw missile at: 14

Assault: 442 (20%)

Harass: 9

Intimidate: 236 (23%)

Throw missile at: 1

Assault: 3

Intimidate: 1

Assault: 3

Intimidate: 1

Assault, throw a missile at, stalk, harass or intimidate a police officer during a public disorder (s 60(1A))

Assault: 2

Intimidate: 3

Assault: 0

Intimidate: 0

Assault: 1Assault: 1
Assault, throw a missile at, stalk, harass or intimidate a law enforcement officer (other than a police officer) (s 60A(1))

Assault: 163

Stalk, harass or intimidate: 27

Throw missile at: 1

Assault: 133 (82%)

Stalk, harass or intimidate: 7

Throw missile at: 1

00
Assault, stalk, harass or intimidate any person with whom a law enforcement officer has a domestic relationship (s 60B(1))

Assault: 1

Stalk, harass or intimidate: 4

Assault: 1

Stalk, harass or intimidate: 1

00
Assault a police officer occasioning actual bodily harm (s 60(2))426161 (38%)2817
Assault a police officer occasioning actual bodily harm during a public disorder (s 60(2A))1010
Assault a law enforcement officer (other than a police officer) occasioning actual bodily harm (s 60A(2))605533
Wounding or grievous bodily harm with intent to resist or prevent lawful arrest or detention (s 33(2))002018
Reckless wounding or grievous bodily harm to a police officer (s 60(3))002618
Reckless wounding or grievous bodily harm to a police officer during a public disorder (s 60(3A))0011
Reckless wounding or grievous bodily harm to a law enforcement officer (other than a police officer) (s 60A(3))0066

Other offences

OffenceNumber of offenders sentenced in the NSW Local Court between January 2016 and December 2019Number and proportion of offenders sentenced to imprisonment in the Local CourtNumber of offenders sentenced in the NSW District Court and NSW Supreme Court between January 2008 and September 2019Number and proportion of offenders sentenced to imprisonment in the NSW District Court and NSW Supreme Court
Common assault prosecuted by indictment (s 61)28,0302,217 (8%)10742 (39%)
Assault with intent to commit a serious indictable offence (s 58, first paragraph)1033
Assault during a large-scale public disorder (s 59A(1))0000
Assault occasioning actual bodily harm (s 59(1))15,5963,076 (20%)469244 (52%)
Assault occasioning actual bodily harm in company (s 59(2))518162 (31%)408181 (44%)
Assault occasioning actual bodily harm during a large-scale public disorder (s 59A(2))0000
Reckless wounding (s 35(4))648269 (42%)650446 (69%)
Reckless wounding in company (s 35(3))4930194145 (75%)
Causing grievous bodily harm by unlawful or negligent act or omission (s 54)19181
Reckless grievous bodily harm (s 35(2))312136 (44%)537403 (75%)
Reckless grievous bodily harm in company (s 35(1))2112201155 (77%)
Wounding or grievous bodily harm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to that or any other person (s 33(1))00662615 (93%)