16 November 2017
A Private Members Bill to impose tougher sentences on those who assault police and other emergency services has cleared its latest hurdle at Parliament.
MPs met on Wednesday (15 November) for the ‘committee stage’ of Rhondda MP Chris Bryant’s Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, where the wording and provisions of the proposed legislation was scrutinised and key clauses were supported or amended.
The Bill builds on the work of the Federation and our partners, British Transport Police Federation and the Prison Officers Association to press for tougher sentences as part of our Protect the Protectors campaign, in light of shocking statistics which suggest that a police officer is assaulted every four minutes in England and Wales.
Mr Bryant who successfully steered his Bill through its second parliamentary reading in October, where it received strong cross-party support, paid tribute to his Labour colleague, the Halifax MP Holly Lynch, for her work in championing the cause at the outset. “In a sense I am midwife to, rather than the mother of, today’s Bill” he joked.
Mr Bryant and Ms Lynch later recorded a video expressing their delight at it passing the Committee stage and looking ahead to its Third Reading in April next year.
Policing Minister Nick Hurd attended the Committee Stage and praised the Bill as “simple and coherent”. He added that the Government was pleased to support it. Its Clause 1 creates a new form of common assault where the assault is against an emergency worker. An offence would be triable in either magistrates or crown court and will carry a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison.
Mr Hurd said: “That is double the current maximum penalty for the existing offence of assault. The new offence provides increased protection under the law for emergency workers who may be assaulted in the course of their day-to-day work.
“The statistics about the number of assaults across the range of emergency workers covered by the Bill are genuinely shocking, and the Second Reading debate brought that through very clearly. It is very clear to me and the Government that emergency workers deserve the full protection of the law. Tougher sentences for assaults on emergency workers send the clearest possible message that that such cowardly and despicable behaviour will not be tolerated.”
The Bill’s protection will also extend to situations where an emergency worker is off duty but acts as if he or she were on duty, for example intervening to prevent a crime. It also seeks to protect emergency workers from communicable diseases by making it an offence for someone who spits on a blue light worker to refuse to provide a blood sample.
Calum Macleod, Vice-Chair, Police Federation of England and Wales said: “We are moving in the right direction and are grateful for the support we have received so far. Our members and emergency service workers throughout England and Wales very much deserve this added protection in legislation. There is a way to go and we will continue to campaign for change to better Protect the Protectors.”
The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill today passed through committee stage – one step closer to it becoming law pic.twitter.com/iJJIOOn36V
— Chris Bryant (@RhonddaBryant) November 15, 2017