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a westminster imageJuly 27 2018

A new law will increase the possible sentencing of someone who commits common assault against a range of workers in public-facing roles. The law will also allow courts to regard certain offences against these “emergency workers” as an aggravating factor in determining the severity of a sentence.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill lists a number of occupations under the category of “emergency workers”. As well as police, prison, fire and rescue officers, the category includes those working in the health sector who are described as:

a person employed for the purposes of providing, or engaged to provide—

  1. (i)NHS health services, or
  2. services in the support of the provision of NHS health services, and whose general activities in doing so involve face to face interaction with individuals receiving the services or with other members of the public.”

The law creates a new offence which will mean an assault at the level of common assault could be heard in the Crown Court rather than the Magistrates’ Court. The potential punishment could be up to 12 months in prison rather than the 6 months maximum prison sentence that common assault otherwise carries.

For other types of more serious assault or attack, such as assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH), if the victim falls within the ‘emergency worker’ category, this will be considered an aggravating factor. The judge or magistrates will therefore be required to consider a sentence that reflects the more serious nature of the assault. 

Explanatory notes published alongside the law say: “The new offence and the aggravating factor would apply to an emergency worker when they were acting in the course of their functions as an emergency worker, whether or not that amounted to an emergency situation.”

The Bill completed its passage through the Houses of Parliament on July 24 and is now awaiting Royal Assent.

Links:
Parliament UK: Bill documents — Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill 2017-19.         
Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill (HL Bill 99)         
Explanatory notes to the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill             

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