THE punishments meted out by the courts to those who assault 999 workers have been called into question.

It follows the case of a Purton drink driver ordered to pay just £50 to each of the three police officers she variously kicked or spat at as they waited with her at Great Western Hospital.

Sarah Michalek, 31, of Cowleaze, had been arrested earlier that evening on September 7 after she smashed her Vauxhall Astra into a parked car in Lydiard Millicent.

A child was with her in the vehicle.

“There needs to be a clear message sent by the courts that your behaviour will not be accepted.

“Without that we don’t have the protection we deserve.”

Angus Macpherson, Swindon and Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner, added: “Sentencing is done in accordance with guidelines issued nationally.

“The sentencer is entitled to award compensation, and any such compensation takes priority over any fine – and in totality the sentencer will have regard to the means of the offender.

As there was no other financial penalty in this case, and given the offence was against emergency workers and staff in a hospital, I would have expected higher compensation to have been awarded to those assaulted.”

Sgt Katharine Smith of Royal Wootton Bassett Police said: “Michalek’s actions on September 17 were unacceptable. To get behind the wheel of a car intoxicated is irresponsible and mindless. It is fortunate that nobody was seriously injured.”

Assault on an emergency worker is a comparatively new offence, brought in last year. It doubles the maximum sentence that can be given to those who attack 999 workers from six months to a year.

The punishment meted out varies depending upon the circumstance of the offence and the guilty party’s personal situation.

But there have been complaints that courts are not tough enough on those who attack police officers, paramedics and firefighters.

The sentence given to drink driver Michalek was thrown into relief by an eight-week prison sentence handed to Matthew Rawlings just two days later by Swindon magistrates. The 35-year-old had spat at a police officer in Chippenham.

Chairman of the bench on that occasion, Martin Clarke, told Rawlings: “You know very well the state of your record. There are a few assaults on emergency workers already.

“Your record is appalling. It does you no favours whatsoever.”

Rawlings was also ordered to pay £122 compensation.