Cook Government increases penalties for assaults on retail workers

  • New legislation to increase penalties for assaults against retail workers
  • Maximum penalty to be increased to seven years’ imprisonment, or three years and a fine of $36,000
  • Crackdown targeting violent offenders will make workplaces safer

People who assault retail workers will face up to seven years in prison under tough new legislation to be introduced into Parliament by the Cook Government.

The Cook Government’s reforms will amend the Criminal Code to create a new provision that will attract higher penalties for those who assault retail workers in the course of their duties. This includes the throwing of an object at a retail worker.

The new offences will carry more severe penalties than general assault provisions under the Criminal Code, and send a strong message to the community that this behaviour towards retail workers – who are simply doing their job – is unacceptable.

Under the change, the maximum penalty for assaulting a retail worker will be increased from 18 months’ imprisonment and a fine of $18,000, to seven years’ imprisonment or three years and a fine of $36,000 if dealt with summarily.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw increased instances of assaults on retail workers, and there is growing evidence that violence against retail workers continues at unacceptable levels.

A 2023 national survey by the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) of its members, which attracted 4,600 responses, revealed 87 per cent said they had experienced abuse from customers in the past year.

The reports of physical violence increased by a staggering 56 per cent when compared with the results of a 2021 survey.

As stated by Premier Roger Cook:

“Retail workers are essential for our economy and our community.

“Everyone has a right to feel safe in their workplace, but unfortunately, we’ve seen an increase in acts of violence against retail workers.

“My Government won’t tolerate these disgraceful acts against retail workers. These laws send a strong message to violent thugs – you will be held accountable for your actions.”

As stated by Attorney General John Quigley:

“The Cook Government has an unwavering commitment to ensuring community and worker safety in Western Australia.

“Higher penalties for assaults on retail workers will provide a stronger deterrent against deliberate acts of violence.

“These reforms will not only ensure that our justice system protects retail workers, but that community standards are met when it comes to appropriate penalties for those who commit these crimes.”

/Public Release. View in full here.