Individuals who assault or attack emergency workers on the Isle of Wight – and throughout the country – face longer jail terms as a new law backed by government receives Royal Assent today (Thursday).
A new offence will double the maximum sentence from 6 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.
There is already a specific offence for assaulting a police officer, but for the first time similar protection will be extended to anyone carrying out the work of an emergency service. The law also provides extra protection to unpaid volunteers who support the delivery of emergency services.
The new law will also mean that judges must consider tougher sentences for a range of other offences – including GBH and sexual assault – if the victim is an emergency worker.
Ministers have acted to recognise the debt of gratitude the public feels towards our emergency services, and for the courage, commitment and dedication they show every day in carrying out their duties.
Justice Minister Rory Stewart said:
“Assaulting prison officers or any emergency worker is not just an isolated attack – it represents violence against the public as a whole. Every day these public servants do extraordinary work on our behalf, and they must be able to do it without the fear of being assaulted.
“Our message is clear – we will protect our emergency services and violence towards them will not be tolerated.
Article continues below this advertisement
“I’d like to thank Chris Bryant MP, and other colleagues from across the House for their tireless work introducing this important law”.
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 laid the Private Members 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”.