Working together to protect our future

Its a gross understatement to say deliberately spitting, coughing, sneezing or wiping bodily fluids on anyone at any time is downright disgusting, but in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak its also a malicious and potentially deadly attack.

Thats why President Paul McCue successfully lobbied the Northern Territory Government to ensure our members, and indeed all Territory workers, are adequately protected against these vile offenders.

Long before the outbreak of Coronavirus, police have been dealing with spitting offenders, but in recent months there seems to have been a spike in this revolting form of assault. Here are just a few examples:

" 13 April 2020 Northern Territory Police have charged a 53-year-old man for assaulting a member of the police force. At around 10:00pm last night, police responded to a disturbance at a residence in Moulden. While police were on scene, the man allegedly made claims that he had that disease and spat at both of the police officers. He was arrested and conveyed to Palmerston Watch House.
Deputy Commissioner Murray Smalpage said, I am appalled and disgusted at this behaviour and hope our officers do not contract any illness following this eckless act.

" 24 April 2020 - Northern Territory Police have arrested a 38-year-old man for allegedly assaulting three police officers. At around 2:00pm yesterday, police attended a residence at a remote community in Central Australia to arrest the man in relation to an outstanding matter. Police advised the man he was under arrest and he responded by starting to walk away. As police placed handcuffs on the man, he allegedly resisted kicking out at one police officer, biting another, and spitting in the direction of the police officers. Acting Superintendent Michael Potts said, This behaviour is shocking and inexcusable. My officers work hard to keep our communities safe and it is unacceptable that they are assaulted, and in this case bitten, whilst doing their job.

" 1 May 2020 Northern Territory Police have arrested two people following a traffic apprehension in Katherine yesterday. At around 5:45pm, police observed a vehicle travelling at 80 kilometres in a 50 kilometre speed zone. Police apprehended the vehicle and submitted the 56-year-old male driver to roadside alcohol and drug tests. The driver returned a positive result for the drug test and was placed under arrest. A 16-year-old female allegedly spat in the face of a police officer and was arrested. Detective Senior Sergeant Peter Malley said, This sort of assault on police is abhorrent and will not be tolerated. The risk of contracting COVID-19 is always in the backs of minds of frontline workers but the last thing they expect or deserve is to have this type of disgusting assault committed upon them.

Source: NTPFES Media Release

Our officers are putting themselves on the frontline of this global health crisis, and to be exposed to further risks while going about their duties is deplorable.

On Friday April 24, NT parliament legislated a hefty new $5,495 on the spot fine for anyone who targets police, ambos, doctors, nurses, teachers, those in retail and hospitality all Territory workers by spitting or coughing on them and claiming to be infected with COVID-19. They can also still be charged with assault and face jail time.

These changes were backed by the Opposition Leader, Lia Finocchiaro and Commissioner Jamie Chalker and for that we thank them. Their support towards this outcome is not only good for our frontline workers, but all workers throughout the Territory.

This brings the Territory into line with New South Wales which introduced fines of $5,000 on anyone who intentionally tries to spit or cough on health workers, police, pharmacists, paramedics or other public officials during the coronavirus pandemic, and Queensland which has a penalty of $1,300 for similar offences.

Looking ahead, whilst these legislative changes are designed to deter would-be offenders against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, the NTPA would expect these on the spot fines for this vulgar crime of deliberately spitting or coughing on our frontline workers to continue on a permanent basis.