Several constituents have contacted me regarding the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill 2017-19, and I was pleased to support the Bill, which today passed its third reading in the House of Commons. My full speech is printed below.
The Bill would, for the first time, make it an aggravated offence to attack an emergency worker. With 169 police officers assaulted in Bedfordshire last year, and 37 NHS workers assaulted in Bedford Hospital in 2016 (the last year official statistics are available), this law aims to help deter people from assaulting the workers who protect our public on a daily basis, and to ensure those that do face tough sanctions.
The new law has support from the Royal College of Nursing, Unison, the Fire Bridges Union, the Police Federation, The British Transport Police and the GMB union.
I am backing the Bill to #ProtectTheProtectors because I believe it’s unacceptable that the hardworking men and women in Bedford’s NHS, Fire and Police services face serious assault and abuse simply for doing their jobs. Any assault on emergency workers is unacceptable, and it’s time the law reflected the seriousness of attacks on people working for the public good. Assaults on emergency workers should not be viewed as an occupational hazard.
Society owes a debt of thanks to our emergency workers. Parliament now needs to give them the support and protection they need, and that’s why I supported the Bill today.
“In March I received a letter from Kathryn Holloway, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire explaining why this Bill was so important to protect our emergency workers.
In Bedfordshire, a police officer who has been assaulted is contacted by a member of the Senior Team within 72 hours or less of the assault.
Sadly, such calls are a weekly event.
24,000 police officers were assaulted in the year 2016/17 and over 70,000 NHS staff in England alone.
Assaults on emergency workers should not be viewed as an occupational hazard. While some judges will add an additional penalty if an assault on an officer is proven in court – it is not automatic.
And CPS judges have historically viewed that an assault in the course of arrest is to some extent just part of the job.
We must not tolerate this any longer.
We must put legislation in place guaranteeing a tough line on anyone who assaults an emergency worker – and this must extend to spitting – a disgusting and aggressive attack – and sexual assault.
The Regional Crown Prosecutor for Bedfordshire advises officers and staff to give the same amount of attention to their own witness statements as to those of other victims, and to provide Personal Impact Statements to the court.
The Chief Constable of Bedfordshire police has agreed to supply a supplementary Personal Statement in the event of any serious assault, detailing its impact on the Force and colleagues, to add weight to the argument for the maximum penalty.
But this kind of good practice is weakened without the legislation to back it up. That’s why this Bill is so important.”