NSW eyes testing for attackers of police

·2-min read

Anyone who attacks a police officer or other frontline worker will be subject to mandatory disease testing under laws passed in the NSW lower house.

Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said the mandatory testing scheme would help provide some peace of mind and lessen anxiety for affected workers.

A person subject to a Mandatory Testing Order will be required to provide a blood sample if their bodily fluid has come into contact with an enforcement, health, or emergency services worker as a result of the person's deliberate action, and the worker is at risk of contracting a blood-borne disease as a result.

"Police officers are already required to confront dangerous and violent situations during the course of their shift. So this government is committed to protecting the health and safety of our officers who give so much to keep our communities safe," Mr Elliott said.

"Unbelievably, some people think it's okay to expose these officers and workers to blood-borne diseases like HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C by spitting on or biting them while they are simply doing their job. Sadly, the repercussions can be life-changing for those workers affected."

A Mandatory Testing Order will require the subject of the order to provide a blood sample within two days or face a maximum penalty of more than $10,000 and/or 12 months' imprisonment.

In the 2019-2020 financial year NSW police reported:

* 1182 actual and near miss incidents of "exposure/contact to bodily fluid"

* 90 actual and near miss incidents of "human bites"

* 45 actual or near miss incidents of "needle stick injury".

NSW Police Association president Tony King said the new scheme will help eliminate some of the distress these attacks can cause.

"Police officers deserve to be given the peace of mind that the results from mandatory testing will give them, which under this piece of legislation allows for this to occur in quick time. The Police Association has advocated for this law for more than seven years now and we see no reason for it be held up any longer," Mr King said.

Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin said the bill was welcomed by the state's 9000 staff working in prisons and with offenders in the community.

Public Service Association of NSW General Secretary Stewart Little said new mandatory blood testing for inmates who attack prison officers will discourage the weaponisation of blood in corrections facilities.

"Anyone who wants to commit a filthy, cowardly act and spits in the face of an officer deserves to have the full weight of the law thrown at them, including a mandatory blood test," Mr Little said.

The bill is expected to be considered by the Legislative Council in early 2021.