- Kmart employee brutally attacked by shopper
- She had black eyes and needed therapy
- The attacker got off with a suspended sentence
- New laws aim to stamp out repeats this Christmas
- READ MORE: Female teenage Woolies worker attacked by shopper
The shocking moment a brutal young mother punched an elderly shop assistant in the face and sent her flying has led to a change in the law to protect shop workers.
Christine Smith, 69, was checking receipts at the Campbelltown Kmart in Sydney’s southwest when she walked out of the store and approached a shopper with an overflowing shopping cart full of goods.
But when she put a hand on the shopping cart, the then 26-year-old woman struck without warning, punching Ms Smith in the face before fleeing the store.
Ms Smith was thrown around by the blow, leaving her bleeding, black-eyed and writhing in agony on the floor.
She needed four months of intensive physical and psychological therapy to recover before she could return to work.
“It was like boxing – she just popped,” Ms Smith said afterwards.
Now the New South Wales government has introduced tougher new laws to protect store staff as it warns of more similar incidents in the run-up to Christmas.
The shocking moment a brutal young mother punched an elderly shop assistant in the face and sent her flying has led to a change in the law to protect shop workers
Christine Smith, 69, was thrown around by the blow, bleeding and injured, with two black eyes and writhing in agony on the floor
There is now a special offense of violence against employees in retail, with the maximum penalty for assault without actual bodily harm being doubled to four years.
Anyone convicted of assault or grievous bodily harm now faces up to 11 years in prison, up from 10.
The brutal attacker was eventually tracked down and convicted by police in 2019, but her nine-month suspended sentence was later reduced on appeal.
Ms Smith – who still works at the same Kmart store after 30 years there – says the lenient sentence given to her attacker was the biggest blow.
“That was the heartbreaking part,” she told the Daily Telegraph. “I’m a tough old bird. But if this happened to a 15-year-old, it could harm them for life.”
Authorities have warned of an increased risk of attacks on store workers this Christmas as stores face staff shortages and stressed customers struggle with cost-of-living pressures.
Occupational Health and Safety Minister Sophie Cotsis told the New South Wales Parliament that the new laws were “all about protecting workers like Christine”.
The then 26-year-old brutal attacker was eventually tracked down and convicted by police in 2019, but her nine-month suspended sentence was later reduced on appeal
Following the passage of the new laws in June, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association teamed up with retailers and malls to launch an advertising campaign to raise awareness and stop attacks on store staff.
SDA NSW secretary Bernie Smith added: “It’s really important that stories like Christine’s are told.”
“We would be the happiest people in the world if no one was charged under the new laws because behavior has changed.”