A new law designed to ensure individuals who attack emergency service workers face longer jail terms has been welcomed by the Deputy Police Commissioner as it receives Royal Assent today.
The new offence will double the maximum sentence from six to 12 months in prison for assaulting an emergency worker. This covers police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and paramedics.
The Assaults on Emergency Works (Offences) Bill, also creates a statutory aggravating factor which means that judges must consider tougher sentences for a range of other offences - including GBH and sexual assault - if the victim is an emergency worker.
The Bill, which has become known as the Protect the Protectors Bill, will come into force in November.
Merseyside’s Deputy Police Commissioner, Cllr Emily Spurrell, said: “Emergency service workers risk their lives to protect people and to keep our communities safe from harm. It is abhorrent that they are subjected to threats, violence and attacks for doing this vital work.
“Today’s announcement is a welcome step in the right direction in ensuring emergency service workers get the protection they deserve. Being attacked should never be part of working life for those who put on a uniform to serve the public. Criminals who target bluelight workers need to know they will be punished and I hope we will now see more severe sentences for those who carry out attacks.”
Recent years have seen an increase in assaults on emergency workers, with 26,000 assaults on police officers in the past year and over 17,000 on NHS staff. Assaults on prison officers rose by 70% in the 3 years to 2017, with an 18% increase experienced by firefighters in the past 2 years too.
Chris Bryant MP, who introduced the Bill, said: “The growing tide of attacks on emergency workers – including ambulance workers, NHS staff, fire officers, prison officers and police – is a national scandal. All too often attackers get away with little more than a slap on the wrist.
“I hope this new law will help put a stop to that attitude. An attack on an emergency worker is an attack on all of us and attackers should face the full force of the law. Now it is for the prosecuting authorities and the courts to play their part in putting a stop to the violence, so that emergency workers can get on doing their job in peace.”