MPs have called for tougher sentences for crimes committed against emergency service workers
The Assault on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill was brought forward by Labour MP Chris Bryant but received backing from the Government.
The Bill received an unopposed second reading following a debate which saw cross-party support, with Tory Justice minister Sam Gyimah insisting emergency service workers deserve the “full protection of the law.”
He said: “Tougher sentences for these despicable attacks on emergency workers sends the clearest possible message that this cowardly behaviour will not be tolerated and that is why the Government is supporting this Bill.”
The debate heard many harrowing cases of assaults on emergency service workers who were trying to help the public in their roles in the police, NHS workers and fire fighters.
Tougher sentences for these despicable attacks on emergency workers sends the clearest possible message that this cowardly behaviour will not be tolerated
Halifax Labour MP Holly Lynch described an attack on two West Midlands police officers.
She said: “Both officers had blood spat in their faces while trying to arrest a violent offender.
“They both had to undergo antiviral treatments to reduce their risk of contracting communicable diseases and they faced a six-month wait to find out whether the treatment had been successful.”
Saffron Walden Tory MP Kemi Badenoch described what happened to police in her constituency when they went to help road workers who were being threatened by a man with a weapon.
Chris Bryant (R) proposed the bill in the Commons, and it was supported by Stephen Crabb (L)
She said: “They pursued the suspect through difficult terrain. The man, heavily under the influence of drink and drugs, was eventually stopped, only to attack officers with a hammer.
“Officers present sustained injuries and, if not for their training and professionalism, could have been fatally injured.”
Tory former cabinet minister Stephen Crabb said he had been struck by the “sheer frequency” of assaults on Dyfed-Powys Police officers.
Mr Crabb added he had been totally persuaded the existing legislation is “just too weak” despite it already covering attacks on emergency workers.
Prince William met with the fire service following the Grenfell Tower disaster
He also told MPs how a man wanted for questioning over a domestic assault killed a police dog after attacking an officer with a “long-handled sickle”.
Tory MP David Morris suggested extending Mr Bryant’s law to cover animals.
In an intervention on Mr Crabb, he said: “Would it not be pertinent to embrace the animals that work within the police forces and other emergency services to be incorporated into this Bill as well as equally being, shall we say, equal in their attack and the response and how the law should deal with the perpetrators?”
The Bill also amends legislation to make it an offence if someone suspected of assaulting an on-duty emergency worker and exposing them to a risk of transmission of an infectious disease refuses to give a blood sample.
Conservative MP Gareth Johnson (Dartford) described the legislation as “absolutely vital” as workers’ lives are “placed in limbo” as they wait to find out whether they have been infected with a disease after being spat at or bitten.
The Bill will undergo further scrutiny at a later date as it seeks to clear the various stages of the legislative process.
MPs also asked for more frontline workers to be protected by the proposals, including police community support officers (PCSOs), first responders, GPs and traffic wardens.
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Mr Bryant, concluding the debate urged ministers to provide parliamentary time for the Bill to be completed by Easter next year.
He said: “I’m grateful to the offer from the minister that we will progress this as fast as possible.
“There are means, if the Government chose to adopt them, to get this on the statute books by Easter next year.”