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Government backs new law to protect emergency services staff

18 October 2017

A PRIVATE Members Bill that seeks to better protect police and other emergency services workers has received Government backing.

Labour MP Chris Bryant will lead the debate on his Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill at its second reading on Friday (20 October), following huge public and cross-party support.

It incorporates the themes of the Federation’s Protect the Protectors campaign and seeks to give special protection for police, paramedics, nurses, firefighters and other 999 staff who are abused, attacked or spat at while carrying out their work.

Police Federation of England and Wales Vice-Chair, Calum Macleod, welcomed confirmation from an aide to Home Secretary Amber Rudd that the Government wants the bill to “receive support across the House” but warned against any sense of complacency.

He said: “For too long our members and others in the emergency services have been subjected to horrific assaults, seemingly deemed ‘part of the job’. Too many offenders have walked away scot free from custody and court, leaving our blue light workers with a tremendous sense of injustice.  The consequences of these attacks run deep, leaving many emergency service workers with life-changing injuries, both physical and mental.

“This news means that we are moving in the right direction but there is some way to go - we need to get the bill through on Friday and the subsequent stages after that. If successful on Friday, the bill will progress to committee stage and following that, the necessary parliamentary time must be allocated to enact the bill. This is a big step forward but we are far from complacent.”

Mr Macleod praised MPs who have pledged to support the bill and singled out Chris Bryant and Holly Lynch for their “unending support”. He also paid tribute to brave police officers up and down the country who have come forward to tell their stories, as part of Protect the Protectors, and help convey the harsh realities of the job.

The Federation’s recent demand, capacity and welfare survey estimates there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults on officers over 12 months, and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon during the same period.  This is significantly higher than the Home Office’s reported figures and an unacceptably high number. However being assaulted on duty is sadly a common experience shared by all branches of the emergency services. A paramedic who had a ‘noxious substance’ thrown at her as she answered a 999 call to help victims of an acid attack is but one recent example.

The Bill will deem such assaults “aggravated” when perpetrated against 999 workers in the exercise of their duty. It will also require suspects to provide samples of saliva and to make it an offence to refuse to provide such samples.

Mr Bryant said: “The government’s decision to support the Bill is great news for the thousands of emergency workers that have had to put up with abuse and attacks at work. It’s thanks to their hard work and the campaigning, and the 128,000 people across the country who have backed a petition to support this bill that has brought the government and means we can now send a message that attacks on emergency workers are unacceptable and won’t be tolerated any longer.”

Since launching last month, nearly 33,000 people have signed an online petition to support improved protection for emergency service workers.

Partner associations including the British Transport Police Federation will be engaging MPs at an open event in Westminster on Wednesday afternoon to further encourage support for the bill.