RSPCA South Australia welcomes State Parliament’s passing this week of new laws designed to provide greater legal protection of the organisation’s frontline inspectors.
Under the new laws, RSPCA South Australia inspectors now fall into the category of “prescribed emergency service workers” within the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935.
The inclusion of inspectors in this category was first proposed by SA Best Upper House MP Frank Pangallo, backed strongly by Greens MLC Tammy Franks. The proposed amendment to the Act passed with the support of both major parties.
Other occupations in this category include ambulance officers, nurses and doctors employed within hospitals and bus drivers.
RSPCA SA Chief Inspector Andrea Lewis said the organisation’s nine-strong team of inspectors are grateful that State Parliament has recognised the risks faced by individuals tasked with enforcing South Australia’s animal welfare laws.
She cited an incident in 2017, where a large man pinned a female inspector by her throat against a fence, as evidence of the urgent need for legal reform.
“In that incident, the defendant received a good behaviour bond, with no conviction recorded, while the inspector took months to recover from both her physical injuries and mental trauma,” Ms Lewis said.
“If an assault like that occurred under these new laws, we would hope the punishment would better fit the crime.
“The nature of the inspector role inevitably exposes them to risk, because some people do not like being told that their treatment of their animals is unacceptable and potentially unlawful.
“Our inspectors have been spat on, verbally and physically abused and had vehicles driven at them.
“As the frontline of our state’s only non-government organisation empowered to enforce government legislation, our inspectors deserve the strong legal protection these new laws provide.”
The new legislation creates three new offences, with significantly higher maximum penalties attached to each.
- Assault: Maximum penalty 5 years imprisonment
- Causing harm recklessly: Maximum penalty 10 years imprisonment
- Causing harm intending to cause harm: Maximum penalty 15 years imprisonment
Chief Inspector Lewis is hopeful that defining assault and harm offences committed against RSPCA South Australia inspectors as indictable offences with substantial maximum penalties will have the desired deterrent effect.
“Our inspectors must feel safe as they do their jobs and anyone who still thinks it is alright to threaten them, in any way, needs to know the full force of the law will now come down on them.”