Welcome back to readers of Australian Emergency law. It’s been a long hot summer so far and with record temperatures set in Sydney today, that is likely to continue. This blog will continue to report on developments in the law relating to emergency management and the emergency services.

Here’s some things that have happened or been reported in the last month:

  1. On 8 September 2017 I reported, via FaceBook, on a plea by two women convicted of bashing a paramedic that they be spared gaol time (see https://www.9news.com.au/national/2017/09/07/13/55/bashed-vic-ambo-still-can-t-return-to-work). On 11 December 2017, it was reported that they had been sentenced to gaol for eight and six months respectively.  They have now appealed those sentences and are on bail pending determination of that appeal – see https://www.3aw.com.au/drunk-mothers-who-viciously-bashed-a-paramedic-given-jail-time/.  I will try to report on the outcome of the appeal when a result is handed down.
  2. On 14 December it was reported that a Queensland coroner has referred police to the DPP for possible prosecution for failing to providing assistance to a person who was unconscious in a Gold Coast apartment – see http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-14/police-may-face-charges-for-failing-to-help-unconscious-student/9258952?pfmredir=sm&sf176293019=1.   This outcome is not inconsistent with earlier posts, based around the decision in Stuart v Kirkland-Veenstra. Although there is no general duty to rescue, that is different in a situation where police have entered premises and de facto detained those inside (consider whether this person would have been allowed to leave if he’d woken up and tried to do so). In those circumstances and where the person is apparently unconscious there would be no inconsistency in finding that police did owe a duty of care.  Whether or not these police were negligent, and whether or not that negligence was of such a degree as to warrant criminal punishment, remains to be seen.
  3. On 18 December the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association (NSW) issued a ‘Safety Bulletin’ headed ‘NSW RFS Volunteers at Risk of Prosecution without Support or Assistance’ – see http://volunteerfirefighters.org.au/nsw-rfs-volunteers-risk-prosecution-without-support-assistance. The gist of the story is that a volunteer was prosecuted for a traffic offence.  Unfortunately the statement gives no details on what the driver did or the charges that he or she was convicted of.  The statement says ‘The VFFA is deeply concerned that this case sets a precedent; Volunteer Firefighters can be subject to prosecution if salaried staff, without question or any internal investigation, call the NSW Police to report alleged actions of a Volunteer Firefighter based on hearsay…’  It’s not the RFS staff that determine whether or not someone is subject to prosecution, it’s the police and they make that decision on the basis of admissible evidence (even if they have obtained inadmissible information along the way which may cause their inquiries to move in a particular direction).  Given the police in this case must have formed the view that there was sufficient evidence to warrant a prosecution, and given the court was satisfied that the case was proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ it is unclear what the issue is. More detail from the VFFA would be required before anyone could take any lesson from this matter.
  4. On 19 December the ABC delivered a story on ‘Filming an emergency on your phone or camera? Know your rights before you press record’ (ABC Radio Brisbane, Hailey Renault) – see http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-19/what-you-need-to-know-about-filming-an-emergency/9267910?sf176717959=1. I was interviewed for that story and my comments are included.  As noted in some FaceBook comments on the story, there is a duty to rescue in the Northern Territory (see https://emergencylaw.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/nt-police-officer-gaoled-for-failing-to-render-assistance/ ). It’s true that this section doesn’t get a comment here but it is impossible to give a detailed analysis in a short interview where the journalistthen writes the story.  My reference to ‘no duty to rescue’ was making reference to the Australian common law.
  5. Finally a big shout out to Darren and the crew of HEST Paramedical


who were ‘on duty’ at the 2017-18 Woodford Folk Festival and who provided outstanding care for one of my party who suffered a debilitating injury. Effective immediate care with compassionate follow-up care until we could get our party member on a plane home was much appreciated.

And now we turn to 2018 and I look forward to your questions and comments as we continue to explore aspects of Australian Emergency Law.