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14-09-18

New law will mean stronger jail sentences for attacks on firefighters

The Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council has welcomed the news that individuals who attack or assault emergency service works will face longer jail terms.  

The ‘Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill’ creates a new offence of ‘assault against an emergency worker in the exercise of their functions’, with a penalty that is increased from six months to 12 months.  

The Bill covers emergency workers, including the fire service, search and rescue services, police, prison officers, custody offers and ambulance personnel. The new law will also mean that judges must consider tougher sentences for a range of other offences - including GBH and sexual assault - if the victim is an emergency worker.

NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher, said: “I voiced my shock and disgust about attacks on firefighters when the Home Office released statistics last year, highlighting that almost 750 firefighters in England were attacked when attending operational incidents between April 2016 and March 2017.

“I am pleased see this new law which will double the sentence for those found guilty. All emergency services staff work tirelessly to keep communities safe, often putting their own lives in danger in the line of duty; any attack is absolutely unthinkable. ”

Any attack on a firefighter is one too many; we cannot and will not tolerate this continuing to happen

Roy Wilsher

Both the House of Commons and the House of Lords have agreed on the text of the Bill. It is now waiting for the final stage of Royal Assent when the Bill will become an Act of Parliament. The date as yet has not been set.

Recent years have seen an increase in assaults on emergency workers, with 26,000 assaults on police officers in the past year and over 17,000 on NHS staff. Assaults on prison officers rose by 70% in the 3 years to 2017, with an 18% increase experienced by firefighters in the past two years.

There is already a specific offence for assaulting a police officer, but for the first time similar protection will be extended to anyone carrying out the work of an emergency service. The law also provides extra protection to unpaid volunteers who support the delivery of emergency services.

Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Nick Hurd said: “Being attacked should never be part of the job for our courageous emergency services workers, who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us. This law will ensure judges can properly punish those despicable individuals who think it’s acceptable to assault these hard-working men and women. Unfortunately I hear about cowardly attacks on police officers and firefighters all too often – they serve as a constant reminder of the threats that these public servants have to face, and this government will always stand with our emergency services.” 

Notes:

  • The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill will create a new offence of assault against an emergency worker in the exercise of their functions with a penalty that is increased from 6 months to 12 months.
  • The Bill also creates a statutory aggravating factor. This means that when a person is convicted of a range of offences including sexual assault, ABH, GBH and manslaughter, the judge must consider the fact that the offence was committed against an emergency worker as an aggravating factor meriting an increase in the sentence within the maximum allowed for the particular offence.
  • The Bill will cover emergency workers, this includes police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and certain healthcare workers including ambulance personnel.
  • Whereas attacking an emergency worker could previously see a charge of common assault and maximum sentence of 6 months in jail, this will be increased to 12 months.
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