Editor, Safety & Health Practitioner

July 24, 2020

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Emergency workers

Lengthening sentences for those guilty of assaulting emergency workers

Anyone who assaults or attacks emergency workers could face longer jail terms, following the announcement of a consultation on doubling the maximum penalty for the offence.

policeIn 2018 the Government changed the law (Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018) so that anyone found guilty of assaulting a police officer, firefighter, prison officer or paramedic faced a maximum of 12 months in prison. Judges must also consider tougher sentences for more serious offences – such as GBH or sexual assault – if the victim was an emergency worker.

Earlier this year, our sister title, SHP reported that there have been up to 50 prosecutions for assaults on emergency workers every day, according to CPS. In response, the Government is seeking views from stakeholders, including representative bodies from the emergency services and the judiciary, on whether the maximum penalty should be doubled to two years behind bars.

The consultation will run for four weeks and, depending on the response to the consultation, legislation could be brought forward – which would see the maximum sentence for assaulting an emergency worker doubled for the second time in two years.

Justice Secretary & Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, said: “Being punched, kicked or spat at should never be part of the job for our valiant emergency workers who put their lives on the line to keep the public safe.

“Now more than ever they must be able to do their extraordinary work without the fear of being attacked or assaulted, which is why we’re determined to look at how our laws can protect them further.

“We will continue to do everything in our power to protect our police, prison officers, firefighters and paramedics – and ensure those who seek to harm them feel the full force of the law.”

Assault can cover acts such as a push, shove or being spat at. When an emergency worker is seriously injured, prosecutions will take place under more serious offences such as ABH, GBH, or attempted murder that have far longer sentences.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act modified the offence of common assault or battery where it is committed against emergency workers acting in the course of their functions, with a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment. This doubled the maximum penalty for common assault from 6 to 12 months for those who assault emergency workers, including police, prison staff, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue workers and frontline health workers.

This article was first published on Safety & Health Practitioner.

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