By next year, Magistrate Pat O’Shane will be stretched out in retirement, for which many will be grateful. It is unlikely she will care in the slightest about the outcome of a Judicial Commission inquiry into her controversial decision last week to dismiss the case against a man accused of assaulting a paramedic. And why should she? In the worst case scenario O’Shane will be removed from a position she no longer holds. But the effect of her decision to let Kasian Wililo walk away from an assault on paramedic Christopher Martin has been felt by ambulance professionals and allied health workers countrywide.
Since tough new laws were passed in 2010, only a handful of paramedic assault cases have come before the courts. This is despite more than a hundred assaults against paramedics reported annually. If it is this hard to get a conviction against a man who was clearly witnessed to punch a paramedic in the head, where does it leave every other ambulance worker in the state?
As a paramedic I do not need data to convince me that violence against us has increased enormously over the past decade. Just a fortnight ago, while I was driving an intoxicated man to hospital at 60 km/hr, he lurched into the front cabin and tried taking the wheel of my ambulance, putting our lives and others on the road at risk. Previous to this he’d spat through the ambulance, pulled our life-saving equipment from the wall and called us every revolting name under the sun. Now we wonder, will this man be let off too?
I personally invite Magistrate Pat O’Shane to come riding out with us on a Saturday night in Sydney and see how long she lasts without being violated.
Heavy drinking across the city and suburbs, particularly over the festive season, fuels aggression and violence. Those perpetrating these acts rarely respect the paramedics called to help them. Instead they curse and spit and push us around. We cop it all, most of the time professionally. But there are limits. We are, after all, human beings with families we’d like to go home to. And sometimes, after a long night of abuse, by 4 am or so, we may just say ‘no more’. We get firm, and we defend ourselves, as should always be our right. Because, as Pat O’Shane has proven, who else will?