The UK Ministry of Justice has announced the maximum sentence for assault against emergency workers in Britain will double from 6 to 12 months in prison.
As a new law backed by government received the Royal Assent on Thursday, it will provide legal protection for police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and paramedics.
"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," Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Nick Hurd said in a statement.
The politician added that the new legislation will "ensure judges can properly punish those despicable individuals who think it's acceptable to assault these hard-working men and women."
Being spat at. Being punched. Being kicked.— Ministry of Justice (@MoJGovUK) September 13, 2018
Assaults against emergency workers are unacceptable.
They don't come with the territory.
They're never OK.
An attack against one of them is an attack on us all.
Today the law changes to #ProtectTheProtectors 👇https://t.co/01dqw3xqNY pic.twitter.com/OZUr2D2yqJ
In 2017, over 26,000 assaults on police officers and over 17,000 on NHS staff have been committed in the UK.
In the last several years, assaults on prison officers rose by 70%, with an 18% increase experienced by firefighters in the past 2 years.
Chris Bryant MP, who lobbied the new bill, called the increase in the "tide of attacks on emergency workers" 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 politician said.
UK judges will now have to consider tougher sentences for a range of other offences — including grievous bodily harm (GBH) and sexual assault — if the victim is an emergency worker.
The new measures will come into force in November 2018.