90 days from today is Fri, 15 March 2019
13 November 2018
The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act creates a new aggravated offence of an assault against a member of the emergency services and doubles the maximum sentence for these attacks from six to 12 months.
The new law follows the Police Federation’s nationwide Protect the Protectors campaign. West Midlands Police Federation was a key supporter of the campaign and took a number of its members to Parliament to talk to MPs about the effects of being assaulted while on duty.
“We are pleased to see this new legislation in place,” says Rich Cooke, chair of West Midlands Police Federation, “It is a significant step forward and should make it clear that attacks on our members – and other emergency service workers – will not be tolerated.
“For far too long, officers have come to accept being kicked and punched is part of the job. But it should not be. Police officers are committed to serving their communities, fighting crime and protecting the vulnerable, in return they should not be seen as society’s punchbags.
"This new law sends out a clear signal that those who attack blue light workers will face tougher sentences. But there is still work to do. We need to see the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts make full use of the powers they are being given under the act.”
The Police Federation of England and Wales has also welcomed the new act but acknowledges it did not get everything it wanted from the Protect the Protectors campaign. It wants even tougher sentences, as a stronger deterrent, as well as a wider roll-out of Taser, body-worn video and spit and bite guards, all of which it feels will offer better protection to officers. The Federation is also calling for appropriate levels of staffing.
National Federation chair John Apter says: “I hope that this legislation will also help to change a culture which has developed within society that it is acceptable to assault an emergency worker. Let me be clear, it is not.
“Nobody should be assaulted just because of the uniform they wear or the job they do, to assault an emergency worker is totally unacceptable and there must be consequences for those who commit such crimes.”
Home Secretary Sajid Javid added: “At a time when our brave police officers and staff are working tirelessly to crack down on violence, I find it despicable that some people think it is acceptable to assault emergency service workers.
“This act ensures judges can come down hard on these cowardly individuals and makes clear that we are committed to protecting those who protect us.”
The Federation’s Protect the Protectors campaign was launched at Parliament in February 2017 in connection with a Ten Minute Rule Bill introduced by Halifax MP Holly Lynch. Having joined PC Craig Gallant on patrol in West Yorkshire in summer 2016, Ms Lynch dialled 999 after witnessing the single-crewed officer being surrounded by a hostile crowd.
The General Election brought the bill to a premature end but Labour MP for Rhondda Chris Bryant tabled his Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Private Members’ Bill which received cross-party support.
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.”
The Federation campaign was backed by the Prisoner Officers’ Association and British Transport Police Federation.
Last year there were 26,000 assaults on police officers and more than 17,000 against NHS staff. Assaults on prison officers are up 70 per cent and there has been an 18 per cent increase in attacks on firefighters.