Two women who were convicted of viciously assaulting a paramedic and causing him career-ending injuries have avoided going to jail. Ambulance Victoria paramedics and members of the public have been appalled by the court’s decision.
Amanda Warren, 31, and Caris Underwood, 20, were found guilty of assaulting 40-year veteran paramedic Paul Judd. Both women were drunk at the time and had punched and kicked Judd and another paramedic, Chenaye Bentley, while they attended to a patient at a Melbourne suburb in April 2016.
It is obvious that with current legislation these criminals will never see jail.
My colleagues meanwhile will deal with a lifetime of the physical and psychological injuries because of this terrifying event.
The Victorian Government must appeal.
— Rob (@vicparamedic1) May 15, 2018
Warren also ripped a gold necklace off Judd and rammed a car at the ambulance. Judd suffered multiple fractures to his foot from the violent incident that left him unable to work. He has had three operations, with one of them leaving him with a severe post-surgery infection, reported ABC.
As a result of the attack, Warren was originally sentenced to eight months behind bars, while Underwood was sentenced to four months in prison.
The women appealed their sentences and were subsequently released on bail pending their appeal hearing.
County Court judge Barbara Cotterell, who heard the appeal on May 15, shocked paramedics and the public by overturning the women’s sentences. She said it “would achieve little” to send the two women to jail, even though Victoria had introduced mandatory sentences in 2014 for anyone assaulting emergency service workers on duty.
However, the law also has special circumstances provisions to allow the judge from not applying the mandatory sentence in a case.
The women managed to avoid the mandatory sentence as Cotterell decided to apply the special consideration provisions after taking into consideration the women’s young ages and troubled childhoods. The appeal judge also acknowledged their past drug, alcohol, and mental health problems.
“They’ve both completely changed their lives in the two years since the offending,” Cotterell said during the sentencing, reported Herald Sun.
Warren was subsequently given a 14-day sentence of time already served while on remand and a three-year community correction order (CCO) with 150 hours of unpaid community work. Underwood’s sentence was also reduced to a two-year CCO and 50 hours of unpaid community work.
But the paramedics and the broader community are outraged by the court’s decision.
Judd, who had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, told reporters that he feels justice has not been served and that the mandatory sentences that were introduced to deter attacks on emergency service workers would be pointless if they were not applied, reported the newspaper.
“It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Mandatory should mean mandatory.”
He added that to use drugs, alcohol, and mental health “as an excuse is the easy way out.”
“It leaves the door open for everybody to have an excuse to do what they want with no repercussions,” Judd said, reported Herald Sun.
“People need to take responsibility for what they do.”
Other paramedics have also expressed their concern for their safety and said assaulting emergency service workers is unacceptable.
Paramedics across the state have the message “It’s not OK to assault paramedics” scrawled on their ambulances in protest of the court ruling.
Ambulance Victoria chief executive Tony Walker told the ABC that there’s a lot of raw emotion that is being expressed at the moment.
“Attacking or assaulting a paramedic is unacceptable. It would never be acceptable in any other workplace and it is not acceptable in ours,” he said.
“There’s a lot of anger and frustration amongst my workforce at the moment.”
— Danny Hill (@DannyHillAEAVIC) May 15, 2018
Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the two women should have been held accountable for what they did.
“We want accountability for those that are violent towards paramedics, and it is absolutely essential that we continue as a community and as a government to work to try and reduce occupational violence,” she told the news broadcaster.
“Our Government does not want a sentencing regime that delivers these kinds of outcomes and that is why the Attorney has instructed the Department of Justice to provide advice for the purposes of changing the law.”
Walker said that he welcomes any change to the law that would help prevent future violence.
“Clearly the laws have let us down, and it’s positive that they are being fixed,” he said.
“It’s just a shame that the underlying legislation didn’t protect Paul and Chenaye.”