A NEW law designed to protect emergency services workers from attacks is to receive Royal Assent today, to the delight of campaigners.
People who assault emergency workers face longer jail terms thanks to the so-called Protect the Protectors law, which will come into force in November.
Halifax MP Holly Lynch, who first introduced the proposed change as a Ten Minute Rule Bill in 2016, welcomed the news.
The Labour backbencher said: “Having secured a debate with a view to changing the law on this issue, I was saddened and depressed to be contacted by 999 workers all over the country sharing their experiences of being attacked whilst at work, some with devastating consequences.
“Whilst this has been a big team effort with a great deal of public and political support, it is rare for a backbench opposition MP to secure a law change, so I’m delighted that this campaign has been a success.
“I’m proud to have support the many hard-working men and women who face serious assault and abuse simply for doing their jobs trying to keep us all safe and well.”
“I hope the new law will form a deterrent, and help bring about a cultural change, so that assaults are better reported and no longer considered just ‘part of the job’ for our emergency service workers.”
Ms Lynch’s bill was sparked by a dramatic experience while she was shadowing West Yorkshire Police in Halifax.
A routine vehicle stop quickly escalated and the officer she was with found himself surrounded by an angry mob. The MP found herself having to call 999 for back-up from a police vehicle.
The bill was later put forward again by Ms Lynch’s Labour colleague Chris Bryant MP and was backed by the Government.
Recent years have seen an increase in assaults on emergency workers, with 26,000 assaults on police officers in the past year and more than 17,000 on NHS staff.
Assaults on Prison Officers rose by 70 per cent in the three years to 2017.
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.
A new offence will double the maximum sentence from six to 12 months in prison for assaulting an emergency worker. This covers police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and paramedics.
The new law will also mean that judges must consider tougher sentences for a range of other offences - including grievous bodily harm and sexual assault - if the victim is an emergency worker.
Justice Minister Rory Stewart said: “Assaulting prison officers or any emergency worker is not just an isolated attack – it represents violence against the public as a whole.
“Every day these public servants do extraordinary work on our behalf, and they must be able to do it without the fear of being assaulted. Our message is clear – we will protect our emergency services and violence towards them will not be tolerated.”