13 Jun 2012

Union wants fisheries officers to have pepper spray too

12:27 pm on 13 June 2012

A union wants fisheries officers to be armed with pepper spray, following a decision allowing it to be more widely available to prison staff.

The Government has announced all prison officers will be trained in the use of the spray and will have quick access to it, but is stopping short of allowing guards to carry the spray.

Public Service Association national secretary Richard Wagstaff says fisheries staff are often in dangerous situations when they enforce fishing laws.

He says they are often dealing with gangs, and people caught breaking the law sometimes attack an officer to avoid justice.

Mr Wagstaff says prisons and fisheries are very different places but access to defensive weapons is relevant to both.

Sensible Sentencing Trust supports pepper spray use

The Sensible Sentencing Trust says allowing prison guards to access pepper spray will help restore the balance of power in jails.

Trust spokesperson Garth McVicar says the decision is fantastic, particularly in light of several recent assaults on prison guards.

However prison reform advocate Peter Williams QC says giving guards access to pepper spray is not the way to curb violence from inmates.

Mr Williams says the Government has its priorities wrong and should instead focus on improving prisoners' care.

He says it is not surprising that there is unrest among inmates, particularly those in high security prisons, as many are kept in inhumane conditions.

Mr Williams says pepper spray will do nothing to help the situation until that changes.