latest health care news

13.09.18

New law doubling jail time for assaulting emergency workers receives Royal Assent

A new law which will double jail times for anyone who assaults emergency workers has received Royal Assent today.

The maximum sentence for a new offence will double from six to 12 months in prison and will also lead to tougher sentences being considered for other crimes against emergency workers, which ministers say will help protect those “who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us.”

The law, which will come into force in November, covers violence towards police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service workers, search and rescue services and paramedics.

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.”

Assaults on emergency workers have been increasing with a 70% increase on police officer assaults and assaults on firefighters seeing an 18% increase in the past two years.


There is currently a specific offence for assaulting a police officer, but the new law will extend this protection to all emergency workers and will also provide protection for unpaid volunteers who support the emergency services.

With 26,000 assaults on police officers and over 17,000 on NHS staff in the past year, ministers have said they are acting to recognise the debt of gratitude the public feels towards the emergency services.

An FOI request from GMB in April revealed a spike in sexual assaults and threats with weaponry against emergency workers.

Chris Bryant MP, who laid the Private Members Bill, said: “The growing tide of attacks on emergency workers – including ambulance workers, NHS staff, fire officers, prison officers and police – is a national scandal.

“All too often attackers get away with little more than a slap on the wrist.

“I hope this new law will help put a stop to that attitude. An attack on an emergency worker is an attack on all of us and attackers should face the full force of the law.

“Now it is for the prosecuting authorities and the courts to play their part in putting a stop to the violence, so that emergency workers can get on doing their job in peace.”

The law has received wide-spread support, with policing and fire service minister Nick Hurd saying “being attacked should never be part of the job for our courageous emergency services workers.”

Kim Sunley, national officer at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Physical assaults remain a fact of life for many healthcare workers, from A&E to community services.

“This bill is the first step towards changing that for good. From now on, anyone who wilfully assaults a healthcare worker will feel the full force of the law and can expect a tougher sentence if found guilty.”

“The RCN has campaigned tirelessly for this law. Our negotiations have ensured it covers as many healthcare workers as possible, including community and district nurses, and alongside other emergency workers’ representatives we successfully expanded the scope of the bill to include sexual assault.”

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Image credit – Georgia Court

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