14 September 2018
Assaults bill gains Royal Assent
The assaults bill which sends a clear signal that attacks on police and other emergency service workers will not be tolerated was granted Royal Assent yesterday – the final stage before it becomes law.
The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, which was launched on the back of the Police Federation’s Protect the Protectors campaign, makes it an aggravating factor to assault or sexually assault a police officer or other blue light workers, punishable by up to 12 months in prison.
John Apter, national Federation chair, said: “This has come after an incredible amount of hard work and lobbying by us. Being assaulted – whether you are a police officer, firefighter, prison officer or paramedic – is unacceptable and the sentences should be harsher.
“Whilst we didn’t get everything that we wanted in this bill, it is a start and a significant improvement on what we had. We welcome it but our journey to ‘protect the protectors’ hasn’t finished – we will continue to lobby to ensure that when our members and other emergency services are assaulted, those responsible are given harsher sentences than they have in the past.
“I would like to extend our sincere thanks to MPs Chris Bryant, Holly Lynch and others from all sides of the political divides, as well as the House of Lords, who have supported this bill. We will now look to the courts to use their new powers to the fullest and provide the deterrent and protection that police and emergency workers deserve.”
Recent years have seen an increase in assaults on emergency workers, with 26,000 assaults on police officers in the past year and more than 17,000 on NHS staff. Assaults on prison officers are up 70 per cent along with an 18 per cent increase in attacks on firefighters. However, the true figure is likely to be significantly higher due to under-reporting.
John continued: “Steps have been taken to improve the quality of the data, however, there is still work to be done to ensure that all incidents are accurately recorded so a true picture can be obtained. This responsibly also falls to the individual chief constables to make sure that all officers have the confidence – and support – to report every incident.
“Attacks on blue light workers should never be considered ‘just part of the job’ and I hope this new law will act as a strong deterrent for those who think that it is acceptable to assault police officers or other emergency service workers and appropriately punish those who do.”
Mr Bryant 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."