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MP backs tougher sentences for assaults on emergency workers

MP backs tougher sentences for assaults on emergency workers

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson is backing a Parliamentary Bill which ‘protects the protectors’ by introducing tougher prison sentences for those found guilty of assaulting emergency workers.

The Bill, introduced as a Private Members Bill by Labour MP Chris Bryant and getting its second reading in the House of Commons today (Friday), would also require assailants who spit at emergency workers to undergo blood or saliva tests so that emergency workers can have clarity as to whether they may have contracted harmful viruses.

There were more than 70,000 recorded assaults on NHS staff in England in 2016. In the same year, fire crews across the UK faced assaults more than ten times a week on average. Home Office statistics suggest that there were more than 23,000 assaults on police officers last year, equating to an officer being assaulted every 22 minutes, but the true situation may be far worse as many assaults go unreported.

Mr Esterson, MP for Sefton Central, said: “The scale of the problem facing emergency workers is clear. Doctors, nurses, police officers and firefighters in Merseyside and across the country deserve to be able to work without fear of assault. Their jobs are to keep us safe and it’s absolutely unacceptable that these hard-working public sector workers face serious assault and abuse, so I’m backing this bill to protect our protectors.

“Assaults on emergency workers are vile and dangerous, and it’s time the law reflected the seriousness of attacks on people working for the public good. Society owes a debt of thanks to our emergency workers, so Parliament now needs to give them the support and protection they need.”

Across Merseyside NHS, figures show there were 1,266 assaults on staff in 2015/16. Officers working for Merseyside police reported 459 assaults.

The Bill has the support of the Police Federation, the Royal College of Nursing, Alcohol Concern and the Unison Health Committee.

It states that offences including malicious wounding, grievous or actual bodily harm and common assault will be considered aggravated, therefore attracting tougher penalties, when perpetrated against emergency workers in the execution of their duty. Assaulting a public sector worker currently attracts a sentence of up to six months’ imprisonment. The Bill would extend it to 12. The Bill would also make it an offence to refuse to have blood or saliva samples taken without good cause It was thought the Government, which had previously resisted the legislation, would support it, meaning it has a good chance of making it to the statute book..

The Bill would fulfil and extend the 2017 Labour manifesto commitment to “make it an aggravated criminal offence to attack NHS staff”.

Chris Bryant, the Labour MP for Rhondda said: “I’m taking forward this Bill after hearing of the literally thousands of horrifying attacks on our emergency workers every year. No one should be attacked just for doing their job, let alone when that job is putting themselves on the line for the public good.

“Passing this Bill will send a clear message that we will not tolerate violence and abuse towards those who protect us, and it will hopefully help stem the tide of this worrying trend of assaults towards them.”

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