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How Victoria’s PSOs have been breaking the law for two decades

red hot tip confirmed
Article image for How Victoria’s PSOs have been breaking the law for two decades


Victoria’s Protective Services Officers (PSOs) have been inadvertently breaking the law for the past 20 years.

To carry and use capsicum spray, you need a weapons exemption under the Control of Weapons Act 1990.

This week, Police Minister Lisa Neville gazetted an exemption for PSOs.

Until now, they did not have one.

In a statement, Victoria Police confirmed the “inadvertent gap in the authority of PSOs”.

“Victoria Police understands that the gap in the exemptions was the result of an oversight in the legal drafting more than 20 years ago,” the statement read.

“The oversight was specific to OC spray only, with the proper exemptions in place for firearms and other operational equipment.

“We are now in ongoing discussions with the Department of Justice and Community Safety to understand and address any further issues which might arise from these matters.”

Neil Mitchell says the mistake could have huge implications.

“What about every person who has been sprayed or arrested with the spray in the past eight years?,” the 3AW Mornings host said.

“Last year, a baby was hosptialised after being caught accidentally in the spray used by PSOs.

“The lawyers could be all over this, potentially every time they carried or used capsicum spray, until now, they were breaking the law. There could even be a penalty for that!

“If nothing else it’s another example of the extraordinary sloppiness within public service.”

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Former Chief Magistrate, Nick Papas QC, says it’s a “complete nightmare” for authorities.

“Every time they go on a shift and they’re kitted out with their OC spray … they’ve committed an offence,” he told Neil Mitchell.

“The penalty is either … nearly $40,000 or two years imprisonment.

“Of course they’re not going to be prosecuted.”

Mr Papas says he expects the state government will pass a retrospective law to correct the issue.

“There will need to be some sort of retrospective legislation passed if the government doesn’t want individual people who have been sprayed claiming assault potentially, individual officers potentially being charged,” he said.

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Image: iStock – Getty


red hot tip confirmed