Longer jail terms may be handed out to criminals found guilty of assaulting emergency workers under new plans being weighed by the Government.
Ministers have launched a consultation following which legislation may be brought forward to double the maximum sentence for such offences to two years.
Such a change would mark the second time in two years that the sentence has been doubled, after the law was changed in 2018 to bring the maximum sentence to 12 months.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the consultation sends “a clear and simple message to the vile thugs who assault our emergency workers” that they will not get away with such “appalling behaviour”.
They are our frontline heroes who put their lives on the line every single day to keep us safe, and yet some despicable individuals still think it’s acceptable to attack, cough or spit at these courageous public servants.
“This consultation sends a clear and simple message to the vile thugs who assault our emergency workers – you will not get away with such appalling behaviour and you will be subject to the force of the law.”
The consultation makes good on Conservative Party pledge in its 2019 election manifesto to consider doubling the maximum sentence for assaulting workers in emergency services.
It comes after more than 11,000 people were prosecuted for assaulting an emergency worker in 2019, according to the Ministry of Justice. A quarter of those found guilty received a suspended sentence or immediate custody.
Assaults cover acts including being pushed, shoved or spat at, but prosecutions can take place under more serious offences when an emergency worker is seriously injured.
The law change in 2018 also means that when a person is convicted of offences including sexual assault or manslaughter, the judge must consider whether the offence was committed against an emergency worker as an aggravating factor meriting an increase in the sentence.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said: “Being punched, kicked or spat at should never be part of the job for our valiant emergency workers who put their lives on the line to keep the public safe.
“Now more than ever they must be able to do their extraordinary work without the fear of being attacked or assaulted, which is why we’re determined to look at how our laws can protect them further.
“We will continue to do everything in our power to protect our police, prison officers, firefighters and paramedics - and ensure those who seek to harm them feel the full force of the law.”