The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) welcomes the news today that the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill has been granted Royal Assent.
The Bill makes it an aggravating factor to assault or sexually assault a police officer or any other member of the emergency services, punishable by up to 12 months in prison. While we would like to see the maximum sentence raised further, we are pleased that the Bill sends a clear signal that assaults against blue light responders will not be tolerated.
John Apter, PFEW Chair said: “This has come after an incredible amount of hard work and lobbying by us. Being assaulted – whether you are a police officer, firefighter, prison officer or paramedic – is unacceptable and the sentences should be harsher.
“Whilst we didn’t get everything that we wanted in this Bill, it is a start and a significant improvement on what we had. We welcome it but our journey to ‘protect the protectors’ hasn’t finished – we will continue to lobby to ensure that when our members and other emergency services are assaulted, those responsible are given harsher sentences than they have in the past.
“I would like to extend our sincere thanks to MPs Chris Bryant, Holly Lynch and others from all sides of the political divides, as well as the House of Lords who have supported this Bill. We will now look to the courts to use their new powers to the fullest and provide the deterrent and protection that police and emergency workers deserve.”
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 are up 70% along with an 18% increase in attacks on firefighters. However the true figure to be significantly higher due to under-reporting.
John continued, “Steps have been taken to improve the quality of the data, however there is still work to be done to ensure that all incidents are accurately recorded so a true picture can be obtained. This responsibly also falls to the individual chief constables to make sure that all officers have the confidence – and support – to report every incident.
“Attacks on blue light workers should never be considered ‘just part of the job’ and I hope this new law will act as a strong deterrent for those who think that it is acceptable to assault police officers or other emergency service workers and appropriately punish those who do," he concluded.
Chris Bryant commented: "The growing tide of attacks on emergency workers – including ambulance workers, NHS staff, fire officers, prison officers and police – is a national scandal. All too often attackers get away with little more than a slap on the wrist. I hope this new law will help put a stop to that attitude. An attack on an emergency worker is an attack on all of us and attackers should face the full force of the law. Now it is for the prosecuting authorities and the courts to play their part in putting a stop to the violence, so that emergency workers can get on doing their job in peace."
And Policing Minister Nick Hurd added: "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."
More information can be found on the Protect The Protectors campaign (http://www.polfed.org/assaults) page.