That’s the title of an article that I wrote with my colleague Dr Ruth Townsend and which appears in the current issue of Response, the official journal of Paramedics Australasia.

Our argument is NOT that gaol terms for people who assault paramedics are not, and will not, be called for. Neither are we arguing that it is ok to intentionally assault paramedics. It’s not; and that’s why it’s illegal, as it should be.

Fundamentally our argument is that mandatory gaol terms will not decrease the risk of, or actual event of occupational violence directed toward paramedics and they may have adverse effects for paramedics. If we’re right we predict no significant downturn in violence due to the sort of changes proposed in Victoria, but we do predict more cases will be defended, more paramedics will have to give evidence in court and the conduct of the paramedics will be subject to closer scrutiny. Community trust in paramedicine may be diminished. These potential costs are achieved for the benefit of making paramedics think the government has done something for them; but it hasn’t, it’s only done something for itself. By offering mandatory sentencing the government is offering a placebo, a remedy ‘to humour or placate’ those calling for something to be done. No-one will hold the government to account when the policy fails to produce results, but the government can hope to ride a vote winning wave. The only winner from introducing mandatory sentences is the electoral appeal of the government. It’s a placebo – a procedure prescribed for the psychological benefit but that won’t address the cause of offending or reduce the risk of future offending.

You can read the full text of the paper (which includes references and some longer discussion that had to be deleted from the published version due to space restrictions) here.