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Police Association denounces light sentences

Earlier today two hardened career criminals were each sentenced to four years imprisonment for shooting at two police officers at close range on 7 July 2015.

Together with other offences committed, both criminals received a total maximum sentence of a little more than eight years, but could walk free in six.

One of the victims, Constable Ben Ashmole is lucky to be alive, having literally been millimetres away from being killed. Ben was shot in the back of the head at close range. He still has 11 gunshot pallets lodged in his head.

Ben’s partner during this fateful shift, Senior Constable Tom Wospil, is also lucky to have escaped serious injury.

Today’s sentencing confirms what we and the community have suspected for a long time – that our justice system is failing when someone can shoot at a police officer in the back of the head and receive such a pitifully light sentence.

These are crimes not just committed against two police officers. They are callous crimes committed against the fabric of our society.

Today’s outcome needs to be called out for what it is – a manifestly inadequate sentence and an indictment on our system of justice.

Such a woeful sentence disrespects many in our community who deserve so much more:

It disrespects Ben and Tom – two fine, hardworking police officers who are both scarred for life - be it physically and/or psychologically.

It also disrespects all of our 15,000 members, who would be quite justified in being disillusioned and frustrated by today’s outcome.

But above all, this inadequate sentence disrespects all Victorians as these crimes were not just committed against two police officers, but against the entire community.

It is little wonder we are seeing such flagrant disrespect for our law on a daily basis. The crooks are winning. It’s high time this changed.

Indeed, such crimes against police are not isolated. There have been five incidents in which police have been shot at in the past two years.

These include two separate incidents that have occurred in the past fortnight, where a total of six police officers were shot at.

Out of respect for our members and the law-abiding community they serve, The Police Association is determined to get to the bottom of these flaws in our system and have them fixed.

Clearly, more needs to be done to ensure that the crooks stop winning and that community safety is, once again, made front and centre.

Wayne Gatt

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