Criminal Code Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020 Explained

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WA parliament has recently passed a number of amendments to the criminal law, and other laws, specific to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, changes will apply to the Criminal Law and to Family Violence laws. These may impact you if you are charged with an assault or threats and the incident was related to COVID-19.

Criminal Code Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020 (No 8)

This Act makes amendments to the WA Criminal Code specific to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The purpose of these amendments as stated in the Explanatory Memorandum is to ‘… to reflect the seriousness of offending against public officers and certain other officers delivering frontline services…’.

The Act has introduced increased penalties for two offences: serious assault (section 318) and threats committed in the context of COVID-19 (section 338B). These changes will be in place for 12 months.

In essence, offenders who know that they have COVID-19, or make a statement or do any other act to create a belief, suspicion or fear that they have COVID-19 as part of their offending will face the following increased penalties:

  • 10-years imprisonment as a maximum penalty if found guilty of assaulting a person in circumstances where they know they have COVID-19 or create a belief, suspicion or fear that they have COVID-19; and
  • 7-years imprisonment as a maximum penalty for threats made to injure, endanger or harm someone who is a ‘protected officer’ by exposing them to COVID-19.

Protected officers include frontline workers such as doctors and nurses, police officers, paramedics, fire and emergency service workers, prison officers and bus drivers.

Family Violence Legislation Reform (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020 (No 14)

This Act makes amendments to a number of pieces of legislation - Sentencing Act 1995, the Sentence Administration Act 2003, the Bail Act 1982 and the Restraining Orders Act 1997.

The purpose of these amendments is to implement reforms to so that the justice system is better prepared to respond to COVID-19. The amendments are as follows:

Sentencing Act 1995

  • The definition of ‘electronic monitoring device’ was amended to be broader and allow more varied technologies to be used to electronically monitor offenders and manage curfew requirements;
  • Sections 76A, 84, 84C, and 147A were inserted – to allow the courts to impose electronic monitoring requirements:
    • where an Intensive Sentencing Order is imposed (e.g. for monitoring location); andSections 76A, 84, 84C, and 147A were inserted – to allow the courts to impose electronic monitoring requirements:
    • as a ‘primary requirement’ of, and to monitor location under, a Conditional Suspended Imprisonment Order.
  • Changes also allow the Department of Justice to administer electronic monitoring;
  • Similar amendments to these have been made to the Sentence Administration Act 2003.

Bail Act 1982

  • The definition of ‘electronic monitoring device’ has also been amended under the Bail Act;
  • Section 16A(3) has been deleted – meaning police will be able to grant bail for breached of Family Violence Restraining Orders or Violence Restraining Orders in urban areas without going to court (previously this was only the case in regional areas).

Restraining Orders Act 1997

  • Changes to this act are mainly administrative in nature (and more important for lawyers to understand than clients):
  • ‘Affidavit’ has been defined to include electronic declarations (made in accordance with rules of the court);
  • ‘Public Advocate; has been defined to mean the person holding or acting in the office of the Public Advocate under the Guardianship and Administration Act;
  • Section 9 has been deleted – meaning courts may make procedural rules to enable electronic lodging of restraining orders and electronic conduct of other court functions;
  • Other functions such as carrying on hearings and lodging orders electronically are also enabled and addressed.

Andrew Williams Barrister and Solicitor remains open during these changing times and is ready to assist those in need of criminal legal advice and assistance. He is aware of how these changes might affect you and is ready to assist those in need of criminal legal advice and assistance. Andrew Williams represents clients in all courts for criminal and traffic related charges.

Contact the law offices of Andrew Williams on (08) 9278 2575 or  enquire online today.

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