Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:34 am on 20th October 2017.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Labour, Rhondda 9:34 am, 20th October 2017

I would like to cut the number of assaults on anyone in society—that is the truth of the matter. The hon. Lady makes a good point about public sector workers.

Incidentally, I should make one comment before I continue. My hon. Friend Ms Lee referred to HIV. It is true that people often fear HIV infection in these situations, but it is almost inconceivable that somebody would be infected with HIV by being spat at. I want to make that absolutely clear. I would be horrified if my Bill were somehow to be used to increase the stigma attached to such illnesses.

There is a problem with the existing offences. Common assault makes no distinction between a member of the public and an emergency worker, and the other offences apply only to police, prison and immigration officers, and not to all emergency workers. What is more, they are all summary offences triable only in the magistrates courts, with a maximum sentence of six months.

By contrast, the Bill’s new offence will apply to all emergency workers. It will be an “either way” offence, triable in either a magistrates court or a Crown court, with a maximum sentence of 12 months, or a fine, or both. In essence, it will double the maximum sentence available for assault or battery of an emergency worker. It will give the Crown Prosecution Service an extra string to its bow and it will match the provisions already in place in Scotland.