Recent statistics suggest that there has been a steep increase in assaults on emergency workers, with 26,000 assaults on police officers reported in the past 12 months, and an increase of 18% in assaults against firefighters.

Further protection for emergency services

In recognition of this, the Act creates a new offence of assault against an emergency worker in the exercise of his or her functions. It doubles the maximum jail term for such offences from 6 up to 12 months. The legislation covers all emergency services workers such as police officers, firefighters, ambulance staff and prison officers, and also covers all NHS workers. Protection is also extended to unpaid volunteers who support the provision of emergency services.

The new offence is in addition to the existing specific offence of assaulting a police officer. The Act also creates a statutory aggravating factor, meaning that when an individual is convicted of certain violent offences including actual bodily harm, grievous bodily harm, sexual assault or manslaughter, the judge must consider the fact that the offence was committed against an emergency worker as an ‘aggravating factor’, which merits an increase in the sentence (within the maximum allowed for that offence). Whilst this is already included within sentencing guidelines, the Act gives the practice a statutory basis.

Chris Bryant MP, who laid the Bill before Parliament, commented that: “The growing tide of attacks on emergency workers – including ambulance workers, NHS staff, fire officers, prison officers and police – is a national scandal…. An attack on an emergency worker is an attack on all of us and attackers should face the full force of the law.”

How we can help

For further information on how this issue might affect your organisation please contact Alessandra Gettins or Amy Millson.