Plan to double maximum sentence for attacks on 999 workers

13 July 2020, 08:19

The sentence for assaulting an emergency worker could be doubled
The sentence for assaulting an emergency worker could be doubled. Picture: LAS
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Offenders who assault police or other emergency workers could face longer prison sentences under plans being considered by the Government.

Doubling the sentences for those who assault emergency workers was a Conservative Party manifesto pledge in the 2019 General Election.

Now Ministers have launched a consultation seeking views on increasing the maximum penalty from 12 months to two years in prison for the offence.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told LBC's Tom Swarbrick it would help protect frontline emergency service workers who come into regular contact with the public.

He said the Government wanted to give "as much confidence as possible" that the law would be on the side of emergency service workers should they come under attack.

He told LBC so far, around 9,000 offences had been prosecuted since the 2018 change to the laws.

Mr Buckland said the new legislation would "fill a gap" between offences such as common assault and more serious offences such as GBH.

The law was changed in 2018 doubling the maximum sentence to 12 months, should the Government push through legislation it would be the second time it had been doubled in two years.

Anyone found guilty of assaulting a police officer, firefighter, prison officer or paramedic currently faces 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.

In 2017, LBC's Nick Ferrari launched his Guard Our Emergency Medical Services campaign after discovering there were 193 assaults on doctors, nurses and paramedics every day in England.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the consultation sends "a clear and simple message to the vile thugs who assault our emergency workers" that they will not get away with such "appalling behaviour".

She said: "Our police officers, firefighters and other emergency workers go above and beyond every single day - running towards danger to protect us all.

"They are our frontline heroes who put their lives on the line every single day to keep us safe, and yet some despicable individuals still think it's acceptable to attack, cough or spit at these courageous public servants.

"This consultation sends a clear and simple message to the vile thugs who assault our emergency workers - you will not get away with such appalling behaviour and you will be subject to the force of the law."

The Ministry of Justice said that more than 11,000 people were prosecuted for assaulting an emergency worker in 2019. A quarter of those found guilty received a suspended sentence or immediate custody.

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.

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