Emergency service workers do a vital job, demonstrating huge commitment and dedication. I see and hear first-hand their passion to help the local community when I meet with staff at organisations like Thames Valley Police and the Reading Ambulance Station.
Those working in the emergency services stand by us in our time of need and it is important we stand by them. So, like many of my constituents who have written to me on this subject, I am very pleased that the Government has supported a Private Member’s Bill to protect emergency workers and this legislation is now making its passage through Parliament.
The importance of this Government support is vital. Generally, a Private Member’s Bill will only make it onto the statute books if it has Government support and time is made available for its passage through Parliament.
The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill 2017-19 was triggered by a petition to ‘make it a specific criminal offence to attack any member of NHS Medical Staff’ which reached 118,056 signatures at the point of its closing, thereby prompting a debate in Parliament.
The Bill covers emergency workers, which include ambulance personnel, search and rescue services and certain healthcare workers, police, prison officers, custody officers and fire service personnel. The Bill will create a statutory aggravating factor meaning that when a person is convicted of a specific offence the judge would have to consider the fact that it was committed against an emergency worker as an aggravating factor in sentencing guidelines.
Therefore, offenders who assault someone who is providing a service to the public may face a higher sentence for offences such as assault causing actual bodily harm, wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm, and manslaughter.
The Bill will also create a new aggravated version of the offences of common assault and battery when committed against an emergency worker, for which the maximum sentence for common assault will be increased from six months to twelve months. Importantly, the Government has made clear it supports the amendment which will see sexual assault added to the list of offences to which the Bill’s statutory aggravating factor will apply.
This Bill, once passed into law, will send a strong message that assaulting emergency workers is intolerable and ensure those who transgress face the full force of the law.