By Leon Harris CPP
Published in ACQ-Wire, September/October 2002
In a landmark decision, WorkCover (NSW) was successful in a court action resulting in a NSW Government Health Service being fined $180,000. This action is likely to create similar actions in other states. The case clearly showed that inappropriate design of premises can assist in the committing of violent acts. This case should be seen as a warning to aged care operators. Should an act of violence be committed against anyone in their facility, including its grounds, there is a real chance of a successful action against the operator if it could be proven that design factors contributed to the crime. It is possible that this case will be used as a precedence in future criminal action against property owners and operators around Australia.
In its report of the case in the June 2002 ‘news’ of the Canberra based Australian Institute of Criminology it states, “The recent case of WorkCover Authority of NSW v Central Sydney Health Service (18 March 2002) clearly showed that the inappropriate design of premises, and the fittings within it, could give rise to a successful prosecution under OHS legislation”. The report acknowledges that an important violence prevention tool is Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design CPTED. Although CPTED has been in Australia for a number of years, it has only recently begun to be incorporated under the Occupational Health and Safety umbrella.
For a considerable time we have been urging operators, architects and developers to re-think the way they design facilities. In NSW there is now legislation in place to ensure that Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles are applied to any new development. Queensland operators should not be complacent by believing their architects have it in hand. The services of a security design specialist should be part of the design team.
There are long term benefits for operators and developers who have considered security as a design feature throughout a development as a marketing advantage, given that people and property safety are paramount in today’s buying climate.
Where security has ‘been considered’ in some depth, i.e. security is a design feature throughout a development, it must provide a marketing advantage for developers and future investors given that personal and property safety are paramount in today’s buying climate.
By incorporating integrated security strategies into projects, developers are reducing potential litigation from victims who are (now) successfully invoking the sympathy of courts by alleging that an assault or robbery might have been prevented if security design had been part of a development’s architecture or engineering. Any criminal action, where it is found that the facility’s design contributed to violence, will possibly incur large penalties, disrupt business, damage the organisation’s image, reputation of management and increase insurance premiums.
Finishing on a more positive note, the effective application of designing out crime principles can, as previously mentioned, have long term benefits which include reducing operational security costs and enhancing a feeling of safety.
Leon Harris CPP, is the principal consultant for Harris Crime Prevention Services.
Harris Crime Prevention Services provides on an occasional basis articles by other Industry experts, such as: How Airports apply designing out crime principles