Harsher penalties come into force for assaulting an emergency worker
Suffolk’s emergency services have welcomed the introduction of a law designed to provide better protection for staff.
New legislation doubles the maximum jail term for assaulting police, frontline NHS staff and firefighters to 12 months.
The Assaults on Emergency Workers Act also creates an aggravating feature for offences like ABH, GBH and threats to kill, which will draw tougher sanctions if inflicted on blue light staff.
The act, which also covers prison officers and provides extra protection for emergency service volunteers, was prompted by the ‘Protect The Protectors’ campaign, launched by the Police Federation last year, when Home Office figures showed an increase in reported assaults on police in Suffolk – with 82 of the 341 attacks resulting in injury.
Assaults of ambulance service staff increased across Suffolk from 17 in 2015 to 33 in 2017, while more firefighters were attacked than ever before and assaults on prison officers increased 70% in the three years.
Justice minister Rory Stewart said the government would continue to do everything in its power to protect emergency workers.
Suffolk’s Assistant Chief Constable, Rachel Kearton said: “Suffolk Constabulary deplores any type of assault on police officers or members of staff. Part of their role is to support, work with and protect the public, and we will take action against those people who attack officers and staff to secure a prosecution and bring the perpetrators to justice.
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“Officers receive extensive training to reduce the likelihood of them being victims of assault.
“As part of their initial training, they receive guidance which includes tactical communications training, how to position themselves at an incident to minimise the risk of harm and how to use all their personal safety equipment appropriately.
“In addition, the use of body worn cameras by frontline officers can have a positive impact in deterring assaults on police.”
Mark Hardingham, Chief Officer of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: “I welcome the Act to deal more robustly with assaults on emergency service workers.
“We are fortunate in Suffolk that these incidents are rare for our firefighters, but they do happen and impact on our blue light colleagues to an even greater extent.”
Kevin Brown, the East of England Ambulance Service Trust’s director of service delivery, said: “Violence against ambulance staff on any level is unacceptable and we welcome that this will now be a crime in its own right.
“Assaulting ambulance staff is a crime and you can now be sent to prison for 12 months.
“Last year, 34% of ambulance staff reported experiencing physical violence from patients or members of the public.
“We follow up every case, have seen successful prosecutions, and have welcomed the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill since its inception.
“The people we care for, and the bystanders around them, have a choice – don’t choose to abuse.
“Our staff are amazing people, who dedicate themselves to helping people, often in the most difficult of circumstances. Please value them for what they do.”