New legislation which has come into force this week introduces longer sentences for persons convicted of assaulting emergency staff acting in the course of their employment.
What sentences can courts impose for assaults on “emergency workers”?
Under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) bill, a number of offences which were previously capable of being heard only in the Magistrates Court, with a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment, have become either way offences carrying a maximum possible sentence of twelve months, if committed against emergency staff. This means that not only can the Magistrates’ Court now commit such cases to the Crown Court should they feel that their sentencing powers are insufficient, but defendants accused of such offences can elect a Crown Court trial.
The legislation also requires Judges to consider tougher sentences for those convicted of committing a number of more serious offences which are named in the Act, if they are committed against persons deemed to be emergency workers.
Prior to this legislation coming into force there was a specific offence of assaulting a Police Officer in the execution of their duty, but this offence attracted, again, a maximum sentence of six months and could not be heard by the Crown Court. From today the CPS are being advised to charge all such offences under the new legislation.
What is an “emergency worker”?
The term ‘emergency worker’ is defined by the Act and is to encompass a variety of persons, including Police Officers, Prison Officers, Firefighters and NHS workers providing that they are acting in that capacity at the time of the assault. There is no requirement for them to be in paid employment at the time, it suffices that they are fulfilling their role.
When presenting the bill, Labour MP, Chris Bryant, described a ‘growing tide of attacks’ on emergency workers and argued that the sentences currently being passed out for such offences were too lenient. Indeed the Ministry of Justice confirmed that in the past year there had been over 17,000 assaults on NHS workers and in excess of 26,000 incidents of violence against the police.
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.”
It is hoped that the new legislation and increased sentences for such offences will act as a deterrent and send a message to the public that behaviour of this kind will not be tolerated.
Olliers Solicitors – criminal defence solicitors
Our specialist solicitors at Olliers are on hand to assist should you require any advice or assistance in respect of an allegation of this nature. Contact our specialist Magistrates’ Court advocate Laura Baumanis on 0161 834 1515, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to send us a message.