The law seeks to ensure that police, and other prescribed emergency service workers, are protected while they are reasonably carrying out their official duties. Courts have regarded offences against the police, especially the offence of assaulting police, as serious. A person convicted of committing such an offence will often receive a prison sentence.
Under s 5AA(1)(c) of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) an offence is aggravated if the offender committed the offence against a police officer, prison officer, employee in a training centre or other law enforcement officer knowing that the victim was acting in the course of her or his official duty; or in retribution for something the offender believed to have been done by the victim in the course of her or his official duty. Offences are also aggravated if the offender committed the offence against a victim engaged in a prescribed occupation or employment (whether on a paid or volunteer basis), such as hospital staff or other emergency service workers, knowing that the victim was acting in the course of their official duties [s 5AA(1)(ka) and Criminal Law Consolidation (General) Regulations 2006 (SA) reg 3A].
From 3 October 2019, protection has been strengthened and extended to emergency service workers by the creation of additional stand alone offences covering assaults against police and other prescribed emergency service workers, with higher maximum penalties. See Assaulting a prescribed emergency workers.