Most patients who assault paramedics are not being charged and are escaping the court system, according to the paramedics’ union.
Ambulance Employees Association Victoria general secretary Steve McGhie said violent patients are often not charged due to their psychological state, leaving assaulted and injured paramedics without justice.
Mr McGhie said the union wants violent patients who assault paramedics to face court, regardless of their psychological state.
“If someone assaults them and uses aggression against them we believe they should be charged,” he said.
“Often they are affected by drugs or alcohol or psychologically affected.
“Unfortunately those people are not the ones who are charged. They are sort of exempt from that legislation.
“It should be irrelevant whether they are affected by drugs or alcohol or psychologically affected,” he said.
“The courts should assess that and the penalty – they are decisions for the court.”
Mr McGhie said only a small number of people had been convicted for assaulting paramedics despite legislation being introduced about five years ago designed to better protect ambulance officers.
Mr McGhie said a female paramedic was seriously assaulted when a man, police had handcuffed, head-butted the paramedic.
“That person wasn’t charged because the police didn’t think it would get up in court because of the psychological state of the person,” he said.
“She had several bouts of surgery to rectify the damage done to her face and this guy wasn’t even charged. She suffered and the patient didn’t in the end because he didn’t get charged.”
The comments come as the Victorian State Government drafts legislation to introduce longer sentences for people who attack frontline medical personnel and emergency workers.
The penalties will not apply in exceptional circumstances, such as in cases of serious mental illness.
said while he supported any legislation that works to protect paramedics, violent offenders first need to be charged.
“There’s a lot of work for the police to get them into court,” he said.
“I appreciate the police are extremely busy and this might tie them up even more so but we have got to educate people they shouldn’t be assaulting anyone, let alone a paramedic who is trying to treat them.
“Clearly, this would bring some justification - if someone assaults a paramedic and that a penalty applies to that person.
“Paramedics would prefer they didn’t have to worry about it…that we lived in a country where it didn’t occur. Unfortunately that’s not the real world.”