A correspondent has drawn a news story regarding an road rage incident that left a paramedic student injured – see Man charged over Melbourne paramedic’s alleged assault 9News (Melbourne November 9, 2018).  The story says (emphasis added):

A man has been charged after an off-duty paramedic was beaten in an alleged road rage incident in Melbourne’s south-east.

Joshua Burke allegedly started following the 23-year-old, known as Erin, when she flashed her headlights at him after he “cut her off” in Sommerville last Thursday.

She alleges that when she parked her car, Mr Burke got out and started smashing her window and kicking her side mirror.

He has then been accused of punching the student paramedic in the face and striking her with a can of deodorant.

The young woman suffered serious facial injuries including a broken eye socket. She is yet to learn if she will have to undergo surgery to repair it.

Mr Burke left the scene after the bashing but was later arrested by police.

He has been charged with a number of offences, including assaulting an emergency worker, intentionally causing serious injury, possessing cannabis and a controlled weapon.

My correspondent says:

The reported facts of this case are the victim was a trainee student paramedic (from the photos wearing green student University overalls) on her way home. I can only find reference in the crimes act to an “emergency worker on duty”. Is this just sloppy reporting and her status as a student paramedic is irrelevant in this case, or is there another provision of law at play here?

There are various offences that may have been committed here ranging from assault (Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 31) to ‘Causing serious injury intentionally in circumstances of gross violence’ (Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 15A and no doubt others depending on the offender’s state of mind and all the relevant circumstances.  It will be up to the police and the Office of Public Prosecutions to determine what offences they think they can prove and will take to trial.

Section 31(1)(b) says that any person who ‘… assaults … an emergency worker on duty …knowing or being reckless as to whether the person was an emergency worker…; is guilty of an indictable offence. Penalty: Level 6 imprisonment (5 years maximum).’

The terms ‘Emergency worker on duty’ and ‘emergency worker’ have the same meaning as that given in in the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) s 10AA (Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 31(2A)).  The Sentencing Act says that emergency worker means, relevantly, ‘an operational staff member within the meaning of the Ambulance Services Act 1986’.  An emergency worker is on duty if he or she ‘is providing, or attempting to provide, care or treatment to a patient’.

An ‘operational staff member within the meaning of the Ambulance Services Act 1986’ is defined in s 3 of that Act as a person

who is employed or engaged (whether on a paid or voluntary basis) by an ambulance service—

(a) as an ambulance paramedic or an intensive care paramedic; or

(b) in any other capacity to provide medical or other assistance to patients in an emergency


A student paramedic who is on placement with Ambulance Victoria will meet the definition of an ‘operational staff member’ by virtue of paragraph (b) above, that is they are engaged ‘in any other capacity’ (that capacity being a student) to provide medical or other assistance to Ambulance Victoria’s patients.

But they are only ‘on duty’ if they are ‘providing, or attempting to provide, care or treatment to a patient’, not when driving home.

The other element that the Crown would have to prove is that he knew or was reckless as to whether she was an emergency worker.  Given this was a ‘road rage’ incident he may have been completely unaware (and indifferent) as to who this person was.


Is this just sloppy reporting? We can’t say. Police may well have charged him with this offence.  We don’t know the full story.  Further the police have to make an initial decision and again they may have charged the driver with an offence contrary to s 31(1)(b) but that does not mean they, or the Office of Public Prosecutions will proceed with that offence.   They may well drop it if they conclude there are no reasonable prospects of success in any prosecution but that does not mean that they will drop all charges.  There are plenty of other offences that, at least on the reported facts, the Crown could and no doubt will proceed with.