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New Sentencing For Assaults On Emergency Workers

by | Sep 17, 2018 | Criminal Law, General News, Sentencing

New Sentencing For Assaults On Emergency Workers

Assaults on Emergency Workers

Is there a specific offence?

When it comes to assaulting emergency workers there has, up to now, only been a specific charge for assaulting a police officer. This is a summary only offence which carries a maximum of 6 months imprisonment.

There is however an option to charge an offender with offences such as actual or grievous bodily harm if the injury to the officer is more serious.

However, most lower level assaults on a police officers are offences carrying a maximum of 6 months imprisonment.

What is changing?

A new law has been passed which will create a new category of common assault – assaulting an emergency worker in the exercise of their functions.

These laws will only apply to the person if they were acting as an emergency worker at the time of the assault. It wouldn’t apply if you assaulted your neighbour if they were an off duty police officer. But if you assaulted a police officer while being arrested, the provisions would be triggered.

The Assault on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 will come into force in November 2018.

Who will this cover?

“emergency worker” means—

(a) a constable;
(b) a person (other than a constable) who has the powers of a constable or is otherwise employed for police purposes or is engaged to provide services for police purposes;
(c) a National Crime Agency officer;
(d) a prison officer;
(e) a person (other than a prison officer) employed or engaged to carry out functions in a custodial institution of a corresponding kind to those carried out by a prison officer;
(f) a prisoner custody officer, so far as relating to the exercise of escort functions;
(g) a custody officer, so far as relating to the exercise of escort functions;
(h) a person employed for the purposes of providing, or engaged to provide, fire services or fire and rescue services;
(i) a person employed for the purposes of providing, or engaged to provide, search services or rescue services (or both);
(j) a person employed for the purposes of providing, or engaged to provide—
(i) NHS health services, or
(ii) services in the support of the provision of NHS health services, and whose general activities in doing so involve face to face interaction with individuals receiving the services or with other members of the public.

It is immaterial whether the employment or engagement is paid or unpaid.

What is the penalty?

Instead of a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment, the maximum penalty will rise to 12 months.

Is there any further effect?

The legislation will also create a statutory aggravating factor. Basically, if a different offence is charged (such as actual bodily harm) where the victim is an emergency worker, it will be seen as an aggravating factor and will likely increase the sentence imposed.

Within the current sentencing guidelines, it is already an aggravating factor to assault a person serving the public, but the legislation will put the position on a statutory basis.

Why is this happening?

The amount of assaults on emergency workers has increased in recent years. Government statistics reportedly show 26,000 assaults on police officers in the last year and 17,000 on NHS staff. There has been an increase of 18% in assaults on firefighters in the previous 2 years and a 70% increase on assault on prison officers in the last 3 years up to 2017.

As a result of these increases, new legislation was proposed, and this will be the first time there is a specific offence extending protection to those carrying out the work of an emergency service. It remains to be seen wether this will reduce the amount of assaults on emergency workers. Most commentators being sceptical at best.

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