Criminals to face up to two years in jail for assaulting emergency workers
Criminals who assault emergency workers will face up to two years in jail under a new law announced by the Government.
Ministers plan to bring forward legislation to double the maximum sentence for those convicted of assaults on frontline staff including police officers and firefighters.
It will be the second change in two years after the 2018 Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act increased the maximum sentence from six months to a year.
The law change also meant that when a person is convicted of offences including sexual assault or manslaughter, the judge must consider whether the offence was committed against an emergency worker as an aggravating factor meriting an increase in the sentence.
- Prison staff
- Custody officers
- Fire service personnel
- Search and rescue workers
- Frontline health workers
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Our police officers, firefighters and other emergency workers are our frontline heroes who put their lives on the line every single day to keep us safe, yet some despicable individuals still think it’s acceptable to attack, cough or spit at these courageous public servants.
“This new law sends a clear and simple message to these vile thugs – you will not get away with such appalling behaviour and you will be subject to the force of the law.”
More than 11,000 people were prosecuted for assaulting an emergency worker in 2019, the Ministry of Justice said.
The Conservatives pledged in their 2019 election manifesto to consult on doubling the maximum sentence for assaulting emergency service workers.
Assaults cover acts including being pushed, shoved or spat at, but prosecutions can take place under more serious offences when an emergency worker is seriously injured.
The new law will apply to police, prison staff, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue workers and frontline health workers.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC said: “The debt of gratitude we owe to our emergency workers has never been greater. Every day they risk their lives to protect ours – they should never face being punched, kicked or spat at.
“Anyone looking to harm prison officers, police, fire personnel or health workers should be under no illusion – your disgraceful behaviour is unacceptable and you will feel the full force of the law.”
The chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Martin Hewitt, added: “It is never acceptable for anyone to be assaulted or harmed just for turning up to do their job.
“Police and their emergency service colleagues work hard every day to protect and keep the public safe.
“We will use the full force of the law to prosecute anyone who uses violence against those who are on the front line and the doubling of the maximum sentence sends a clear message that society will not tolerate abuse of our emergency workers.”
John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales welcomed the change, which he said had come about after “an incredible amount of hard work and lobbying” by the organisation.
He said: “The Assaults on Emergency Workers Act 2018 was intended to protect police officers, act as a deterrent, and punish those who have no regard for the rule of law.
“We would now urge magistrates to step up to the plate and dish out these maximum sentences of two years.
“The fact is attacks on blue light workers should never be considered ‘just part of the job’. Longer sentences can therefore act as a strong deterrent for those who think that it is acceptable to assault police officers or other emergency service workers.”