Offenders who assault police and other emergency workers face a doubling in jail sentences to a maximum of two years after a 14 per cent rise in attacks on them during the coronavirus pandemic.
Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, and Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, today (Mon) announce a four-week consultation on the plans to double the maximum penalty for anyone found guilty of assaulting a police officer, firefighter, prison officer or paramedic.
It comes just two years after the Government introduced a specific offence of assaulting an emergency worker with a maximum of a year in jail in face of an 18 per cent rise in assaults on police to 28 a day in which officers were injured.
The new act in 2018 also required courts to give longer sentences to offenders who attacked emergency workers by treating it as an "aggravating" factor in other crimes such as grievous bodily harm or sexual assault.
The ministers have been inspired to toughen sentences after a surge in offenders “weaponising” coronavirus by spitting or coughing or threatening to do so against police and other emergency workers. Figures from the National
Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) for England and Wales showed a 14 per cent rise in attacks in one month compared with last year.
The NPCC said the increase was likely due to a rise in attacks where suspects spat at officers "while claiming to be infected with Covid-19."
Data from 16 police forces revealed there were 386 spitting and coughing offences against police in the eight weeks after lockdown, a rise of 214 - or 124 per cent - on the same period in 2019.
Ms Patel said: “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.”
Mr 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.”