A correspondent writes:

Your recent post regarding emergency driving and the privileges attached prompted me to wonder –  Do emergency personnel have any additional privileges regarding their general movements and access to areas that they might otherwise be barred from?   For example, can a security guard stop a paramedic from going somewhere that the paramedic says they need to go?  Assume here that this paramedic has, at least, reasonable grounds for believing that they must pass this guard to reach a patient in need.   Is the answer any different if the guard has no evidence of the patient? Contrary evidence? Are there general provisions which prevent emergency services personnel from being obstructed?  That is to say, would harm have to be caused by the act of obstructing for it to become something that the obstructer could he held to account for?  If it is different between states, then I am most interested in the law of WA, although the differences between jurisdictions are also fascinating.

There are exemptions from the road rules for emergency workers as pedestrians. Rule 283 of the Road Traffic Code 2000 (WA) says:

(1)       A provision in Part 14 does not apply to a police officer or an emergency worker acting in the course of his or her duty if, in the circumstances —

(a)         the police officer or emergency worker is taking reasonable care; and

(b)         it is reasonable that the provision should not apply.

Part 14 deals with the rules relating to pedestrians on a road way.  So emergency workers and police officers do have ‘additional privileges regarding their general movements and access to areas that they might otherwise be barred from’ if the ‘bar’ is that ‘pedestrians are prohibited’ from any area.  That does not, however, deal with the majority of issues raised by my correspondent.

The owner of a property may choose to exclude a person for whatever reason he or she sees fit.  Denning LJ put it this way in Southam v Smout [1964] 1 QB 308, 320:

“The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail—its roof may shake—the wind may blow through it—the storm may enter—the rain may enter—but the King of England cannot enter—all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.” So be it—unless he has justification by law.

A security guard who has been engaged to restrict access to private property is the property owner’s agent. He or she can restrict access to the same extent that a property owner can. The belief of the security guard has no relevance with respect to his or her right.

In Western Australia, where there is no ambulance service legislation, any property owner could refuse to allow paramedics onto the property.   If the paramedics believed they needed access they may choose to attempt to force their way in (see The Doctrine Of Necessity – Explained (January 31, 2017).  Ideally, if time allowed, they would call police.

It is in different in other states. In Queensland and Tasmania, paramedics have specific authority to force their way into premises where that is required to protect a person from death or permanent injury (Ambulance Service Act 1991 (Qld) s 38; Ambulance Service Act 1982 (Tas) s 14A).    In New South Wales the power of police to enter in an emergency is also set out in legislation (Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW) s 9)).

There is a general offence of obstructing an emergency service worker.  The Emergency Management Act 2005 (WA) s 85 says:

A person must not obstruct or hinder a hazard management officer or an authorised officer in the exercise of a power under this Act.

A hazard management officer is a person appointed by a hazard management agency (s 55). St John Ambulance (WA) is not listed as a ‘hazard management agency’ (Emergency Management Regulations 2006 (WA) Part 3) so that section would not apply to a St John paramedic.    It is different in different states.  In some states, it is an offence to obstruct a paramedic in the course of his or her duties (Health Services Act 1997 (NSW) s 67J; Ambulance Service Act 1991 (Qld) s 46 and Ambulance Service Act 1982 (Tas) s 39B).

If a security guard negligently refused access to a paramedic, for example if a person had called an ambulance, the ambulance crew are on one side of the door, the person who rang is on the other and both are asking the security guard to let them in, it may well be that the security guard is acting negligently in not allowing the paramedics to enter the building.