Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Tougher penalties for assaulting retail workers in WA

People who assault retail workers in Western Australia will face up to seven years in prison under proposed legislation.

Bringing the state in line with NSW, South Australia and the Northern Territory, the Western Australian government’s reforms will amend the Criminal Code to create a new provision that will attract higher penalties for those who assault retail workers in the course of their duties. This includes the throwing of an object at a retail worker.

Under the change, the maximum penalty for assaulting a retail worker will be increased from 18 months’ imprisonment and a fine of $18,000, to seven years’ imprisonment or three years and a fine of $36,000 if dealt with summarily.

WA Premier Roger Cook says retail workers are essential for our economy and our community.

“Everyone has a right to feel safe in their workplace, but unfortunately, we’ve seen an increase in acts of violence against retail workers,” he says.

“My government won’t tolerate these disgraceful acts against retail workers. These laws send a strong message to violent thugs – you will be held accountable for your actions.”

Welcomed by retailers

The plans have been welcomed by the Australian Retailer Association (ARA), with CEO Paul Zahra saying that the ARA has long advocated for these reforms to protect retail workers. He urges the remaining states and the ACT to follow suit.

“All retail workers, whether they’re a casual in their first job or doing the night shift at the local convenience store, have a right to feel safe at work,” says Mr Zahra.

“No one deserves to be spat on, threatened with weapons, intimidated or harassed for simply doing their job. People who engage in these types of behaviours are committing a crime – it’s a simple as that.

“Actions speak louder than words, and we’re extremely pleased that Premier Roger Cook has responded to our views, our member’s views and the SDA, and, more importantly, the needs of retail workers by taking strong action to deter these violent incidents and keep our retail staff safe.

“We’re mindful that the majority of customers are respectful and do the right thing, but the small minority are making retail a dangerous environment to work in.

“Recognition and thanks must also go to SDA secretary Ben Harris for his significant work and collaboration on this issue.”

Police collaboration

Mr Zahra also praises Western Australian police for their collaboration with retailers including more targeted policing operations to protect retail precincts.

“Our retailers can’t tackle this alone – they need the assistance of the police to help catch these criminals. In turn our police need the justice system to take these new laws seriously and use them,” he says.

“We have advocated for tougher penalties for a good reason – we think if enforced the new tougher penalties will help businesses immensely and reduce the pressure on police.

“This initiative will be warmly welcomed by our retail community. With this new legislation we’re sending a strong message that this behaviour won’t be tolerated.”

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