Pharmacist punched by shoplifter, calls for better protection

A Cairns pharmacist punched in the chest by two young shoplifters has called for better protection for pharmacy staff

Yesterday, Good Price Pharmacy Westcourt co-owner Georgina Twomey was attacked by two teenage girls who were supposed to be in court.

“Two juvenile girls entered the store – they had already been in previously that day and had shoplifted,” Twomey told the AJP.

“On their second entry to the store, as the owner I confronted them and asked them to leave, and it escalated to assault.”

The girls verbally abused Twomey and punched her in the chest.

“I’m a bit sore and bruised, but apart from that I’m fine. I did have a pregnant staff member caught up in the altercation, but she’s fine too,” Twomey says.

On their first visit to the store, the girls stole aerosols of deodorant, which were suspected to be intended for use in chroming (the inhalation of solvents or other chemicals in the search for a high).

Chroming is a significant problem in Far North Queensland and so theft of aerosols is common in pharmacies, Twomey says.

“The girls had been convicted of theft two days beforehand, and the courts said let them go. So they were on bail, and then they were meant to front up to court that morning.

“But instead they went on a little crime spree in my pharmacy and other stores as well,” she says.

“Their case workers were following them but they had no powers to intervene.

“After the first incident they told us: ‘They’ve stolen from you,’ but they could only walk around and shadow them.”

Other customers, however, supported Twomey and her staff.

“A lot stood up and were willing to support us. And we’re really grateful for their help – it shows that a lot of people out there are willing to step up when they’re needed.”

Twomey told the AJP that pharmacy needs better protection.

“It’s easy to feel sorry for these young girls. They have no guidance and discipline in their lives, and they’re never going to get anywhere unless people like us give them some boundaries.”

But while legislation to protect police, paramedics and other first-line staff from assault by the people they are trying to help is improving, Twomey told the AJP, pharmacists and pharmacy assistants remain vulnerable.

“People in community pharmacy don’t have any of these laws to protect them. We’re part of the professional health care sector, and we commonly face this type of situation.

“It’s not fair on us, and it’s not fair on our staff.”

Pharmacists who need support can call the Pharmacists’ Support Service on 1300 244 910.

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