Rainbow Serpent Festival party-goers with violent history to be barred

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THURSDAY, 3.30pm: The Rainbow Serpent Festival will not allow “anyone guilty of violent behaviour” into the four-day music and arts event, a spokesman has confirmed. The radical move has been made after 22-year-old James Haberfield avoided a jail term for bashing and squeezing paramedic Monica Woods after taking a “cornucopia” of drugs at the January festival. “There is simply no excuse for violence in our society, we see this type of behaviour as totally unacceptable,” spokesman Tim Harvey said. “Especially against our incredible emergency service providers who fulfill such an essential yet often difficult role both in society and at our festival.” Mr Harvey said the festival’s close-knit community detested violence of any kind. “This type of action is completely contrary to the tolerance, respect and peace that goes into creating this festival,” he said. “We have reviewed a number of our policies this year and will take significant steps to identify and prevent anyone guilty of any violent behaviour from attending our festival again.” On Wednesday, Magistrate Simon Zebrowski said Haberfield’s impaired mental state that day wasn’t solely due to self-inflicted intoxication as he had pre-existing autism spectrum disorder and a major depressive disorder. “While we except mental health and pre-existing conditions can create a complex situation for some, it is still an individual’s responsibility to recognise their health needs and behave accordingly without putting others at risk,” Mr Harvey said. “Paramedics, nurses and other health service providers are often placed in traumatic and violent situations and we fully support any measure that will assist in creating a safer workplace for these amazing people.” After consuming a cocktail of drugs, including ice, ecstasy, MDMA and ketamine, Haberfield knocked on the door of a Coburg home, walking inside and terrifying the residents, who he did not know. An ambulance came to collect Haberfield, staffed by two female paramedics. While he was being cared for in the rear of the vehicle and in an “acutely psychotic state”, he became aggressive, punching paramedic Ms Woods in the face, wrapping his arms around her and squeezing. Ms Woods screamed as Haberfield pinned her to the rear corner of the ambulance, with the two women pressing their duress button before escaping and calling police. “The Rainbow Serpent community would like extend its sincerest condolences to the paramedic who was assaulted earlier this year by someone who attended our festival in 2019. Our full support and thoughts are with this young lady who is obviously still traumatised by her terrible ordeal,” Mr Harvey said. EARLIER: A young party-goer who assaulted two paramedics after consuming “a cornucopia” of drugs at Victoria’s alternative Rainbow Serpent Festival has avoided a mandatory jail sentence. James Haberfield, 22, became the first person under new Victorian laws on Wednesday to be slapped with mandatory treatment and monitoring for offenders who attack emergency workers. However he avoided a minimum six-month jail term also required under the new laws, which came into effect last October. On January 29 this year, Haberfield returned to Melbourne after the four-day music and arts festival during which he consumed “a cocktail of drugs” including ecstasy, ice, MDMA and ketamine. READ MORE: QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT FUTURE OF RAINBOW SERPENT FESTIVAL He knocked on the door of a Coburg home, walking inside and terrifying the residents, who he did not know. An ambulance came to collect Haberfield, staffed by two female paramedics. While he was being cared for in the rear of the vehicle and in an “acutely psychotic state”, he became aggressive, punching paramedic Monica Woods in the face, wrapping his arms around her and squeezing. Ms Woods screamed as Haberfield pinned her to the rear corner of the ambulance, with the two women pressing their duress button before escaping and calling police. READ MORE: WILL PILL TESTING HAPPEN IN VICTORIA? The paramedic driving the ambulance sedated him with midazolam before he was taken to Royal Melbourne Hospital, where he underwent treatment for more than a week. Victorian Ambulance Union secretary Danny Hill said he was furious about the ruling. “I don’t think I’ve been angrier in a long, long time,” he told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell. “Today, I’m dumbfounded.” Listen to Mr Hill’s interview here. The union boss was skeptical about the Haberfield’s eligibility to avoid jail time. “They’re describing him as having autism spectrum disorder,” he said. “There’s a lot of people in the community who have autism. “I have children with autism, we have paramedics in the job who are on the autism spectrum. “None of them beat the crap out of paramedics who are trying to help them!” Mr Hill said the ruling undermines the mandatory sentencing for assaulting emergency service workers, and there “absolutely” must be an appeal. “In almost every case that a paramedic attends a patient will have some form of mental health history,” he said. “If that’s an excuse in all cases … then this legislation is a dud. “It’s not mandatory sentencing. It doesn’t work.” Magistrate Simon Zebrowski said Haberfield’s impaired mental state that day wasn’t solely due to self-inflicted intoxication as he had pre-existing autism spectrum disorder and a major depressive disorder. A psychiatric expert said he would have an elevated risk of suicide while in custody. Instead, Mr Zebrowski said sending the “mortified, dismayed and deeply ashamed” young man to jail “would have a disproportionate and catastrophic effect” on his future. Haberfield was given an 18-month community corrections order and must undergo mandatory treatment. -AAP Have you signed up to The Courier’s variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that’s happening in Ballarat.

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