Protect the Protectors Bill receives Royal Assent
Fed welcomes announcement despite harsher punishment proposals being shunned by government.
A new law designed to protect police officers from assaults has today been enshrined in law.
People who assault emergency workers will face longer jail terms thanks to the so-called Protect the Protectors law, which will come into force in November.
The new legislation makes it an aggravating factor to assault or sexually assault a police officer or any other member of the emergency services, punishable by up to 12 months in prison.
The Police Federation of England and Wales wants the prison sentence increased and says its campaign has not yet finished.
John Apter, Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales said: “This has come after an incredible amount of hard work and lobbying by us. Being assaulted – whether you are a police officer, firefighter, prison officer or paramedic – is unacceptable and the sentences should be harsher.
“Whilst we didn’t get everything that we wanted in this Bill, it is a start and a significant improvement on what we had. We welcome it but our journey to ‘protect the protectors’ hasn’t finished – we will continue to lobby to ensure that when our members and other emergency services are assaulted, those responsible are given harsher sentences than they have in the past."
PFEW had been lobbying for an assault on an emergency worker to carry a maximum sentence of 24 months in prison, which was rejected in favour of 12 months.
As it stands however, magistrates are unable to impose this increased tariff as their sentencing powers are still limited to six months.
In order to change that the government will need to enact another piece of legislation, which has been sitting dormant on the statute books since 2003. If that does not happen, the 12 month maximum would only be available for those offenders sentenced at a crown court.
Home Office figures show there were more than 26,000 reported assaults against police officers (including British Transport Police) in England and Wales during 2017/18. However the Fed believes the true figure is significantly higher.
Mr Apter added: “Attacks on blue light workers should never be considered ‘just part of the job’ and I hope this new law will act as a strong deterrent for those who think that it is acceptable to assault police officers or other emergency service workers and appropriately punish those who do.”
The law also provides extra protection to unpaid volunteers who support the delivery of emergency services including special constables.
Ian Miller, Chairman of the Association of Special Constabulary Officers, told Police Oracle: “Special constables are fully warranted officers and unfortunately they get a full share of violence against them.
“A vast majority of specials are on the front line and will benefit from this as it will give them added protection. We very much welcome it.”
Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Nick Hurd said: “Being attacked should never be part of the job for our courageous emergency services workers, who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us.
“This law will ensure judges can properly punish those despicable individuals who think it’s acceptable to assault these hard-working men and women.
“Unfortunately I hear about cowardly attacks on police officers and firefighters all too often – they serve as a constant reminder of the threats that these public servants have to face, and this government will always stand with our emergency services.”
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 measures will come into force in November.