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Aus State to Protect Retail Workers with Tougher Penalties for Assaults

In Important, World
June 21, 2023

The government of Australia New South Wales (NSW) state on Wednesday announced that it will introduce a new bill to Parliament to impose tougher penalties on those who assault retail workers.

According to the NSW government, the bill will introduce three offences to the state’s Crime Act, reports Xinhua news agency.

The reforms make it an offence to assault, throw a missile at, stalk, harass or intimidate a retail worker in the course of the worker’s duty, even if no actual bodily harm is caused to the worker, with a maximum penalty of 4 years’ imprisonment; assault a retail worker in the course of the worker’s duty and cause actual bodily harm to the worker, with a maximum penalty of 6 years’ imprisonment; and wound or cause grievous bodily harm to a retail worker in the course of the worker’s duty, being reckless as to causing actual bodily harm to the worker or another person, with a maximum penalty of 11 years’ imprisonment.

Under the new bill, physical and verbal attacks on a retail worker could lead to a maximum penalty of four years’ imprisonment, while 11-year imprisonment is applicable if physical injury is involved.

The state government cited a survey from the McKell Institute, which showed that a staggering 85 percent of retail workers in Australia have been abused or assaulted at work.

“The new offences will carry more severe penalties than general assault provisions, and send a strong message that this behaviour is unacceptable,” said NSW Attorney General Michael Daley.

Australian Retailers Association (ARA), the country’s peak retail body, welcomed NSW’s new legislation, as it is in response to the growing prevalence of customer aggression and assaults.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra praised the NSW Government’s commitment to protecting retail workers and consulting with industry via the ARA on the development of the initiative.

“We’ve seen a frightening escalation in retail crime, where it is now becoming a matter of life-or-death for workers simply trying to do their job,” Zahra said.

“It is shocking that in recent months in different locations across the country, we’ve seen several retail workers stabbed — in addition to the broader issue of staff being harassed, intimidated, and physically assaulted.

“Actions speak louder than words, and we’re extremely pleased that the NSW government has listened to our views and the needs of retail workers and is taking strong action to deter these violent incidents and keep retail staff safe,” he added.