That’s the heading in an article in the Adelaide Advertiser, 14 October 2013 (and I thank my friend Luke Dam for drawing this to my attention). The gist of the story is contained in the first paragraph:
ANY offender whose blood or saliva comes into contact with a police officer will be compelled to undergo a mandatory blood test, under new laws to be introduced by the State Government.
As Luke has asked, as have commentators on the newspaper website, what of others such as paramedics and rescue workers?
The reality is that like most law reform this is clearly trying to appeal to some populist vote rather than addressing a real issue. If the problem is that police and emergency workers may be in fear of blood borne diseases then the provision should extend beyond police and, more importantly, should extend beyond offenders. Police, paramedics and rescue operators may well come into contact with blood and saliva from people who are not offenders but whatever problem is being addressed here will not apply in those circumstances.
It is hard to justify forcing medical tests and treatment on anyone and the fear of blood borne diseases and their stigma means that there are strict requirements to be followed for compulsory testing (see for example the South Australian Public Health Act 2011 (SA) Part 10). However under that Act an person can be required to undergo a medical examination or test if “an incident has occurred … and the Chief Public Health Officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the imposition of a requirement under this section is necessary in the interests of a rapid diagnosis and, if appropriate, treatment of any person involved in the incident or connected with the circumstance” (s 73(3)). Accordingly the power to require a person to undergo an examination or test already exist.
In this article where told that the Premier has announced, but not yet introduced the Bill for this measure. One can imagine it will actually apply to ‘suspects’ rather than ‘offenders’. If it only applies to offenders, then it will not help if it’s going to take 12 months of court proceedings to determine if the person is in fact an offender (they may enter a plea of Not Guilty and they may be acquitted). If it’s going to extend to ‘suspects’ rather than offenders it weakens the argument that it could not somehow be applied to anyone who’s blood or saliva comes into contact with police or other rescue workers. But if it is so extended why not apply to anyone whose blood or saliva comes into contact with anyone?
To quote Steven, a commentator on the Newspaper’s website, this appears to be ‘chasing the vote of just the police officers’ rather than a considered, sensible response to an actual problem.