THE landmark ‘Protect the Protectors’ Bill passing through Parliament should not be about party politics.
It’s about standing up for this country’s first responders so the full force of the law can be deployed against those criminals who assault and abuse emergency workers.
It’s also not just about the police – the Assaults on Emergency Service Workers Bill, instigated by Halifax MP (and policeman’s daughter) Holly Lynch, extends to firefighters, ambulance crews, prison officers and others.
And existing sentences are clearly no deterrent. An investigation by The Yorkshire Post shows more than 6,000 emergency workers have been physically, verbally or even sexually assaulted in the past two years in this region.
This is more than the number of spectators who attend some First or Second Division football matches. Apply this to the whole country – and it’s plain to see that these personnel, individuals who run towards danger as others run away, are no longer assured the respect of all.
Yet it is only thanks to the persistence of the aforementioned Ms Lynch since she was first elected in 2015 that this neglected issue is firmly on the political agenda. Not only has she been tireless in her work highlighting the injuries, harm and anguished suffered by all those violated in the line of duty, but she’s gone out of her way to build a cross-party consensus.
And, while Ms Lynch disclosed to MPs this week that there are still issues to overcome ahead of the legislation’s critical Third Reading in the Commons on April 27, the Government has told this newspaper that assaults on emergency workers are “unacceptable” and increased penalties will “send a clear message that these attacks will not be tolerated”.
Given this, it’s even more important that Ministers work with Ms Lynch, and her team, to ensure that this long-overdue legislation is passed unanimously to demonstrate how much the country values its emergency workers – and its contempt for those who inflict injury and untold misery on those who are routinely expected to risk their lives to help others in their hour of need.