New law to see criminals who assault emergency workers face up to two years in jail
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council added: “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.”