Prosecutors pursued more than 50 cases of assaults on emergency workers every day in the first year of a new law that made attacking them a specific offence.
Figures provided by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) show that nearly 20,000 charges under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act were prosecuted between November 2018 and 2019.
Of those, three quarters were assaults by beating and nine in 10 were against police officers.
Spitting was also common but violence included kicking, punching, headbutting, slapping and biting.
Attacks must never being considered ‘part of the job’ – CPS
Max Hill QC, the CPS’s director of public prosecutions, said: “Emergency workers provide a vital public service – the fact they endure vile abuse like spitting and even physical assault in the course of their duties is appalling and unacceptable.
“These attacks must never be considered as ‘just part of the job’.
“These are serious crimes and it is encouraging to see our prosecutors have used the new legal powers to bring offenders to justice.
“Having been made aware of police concerns during the first year of this new legislation, I have met with senior officers and the CPS has updated legal guidance to strengthen our approach to these appalling offences.”
The act making assaults on emergency workers a specific offence came into force in November 2018.
Emergency workers include police, prison officers, fire services and health workers.
On Monday, a 15-year-old girl offered to apologise to opera singer Katherine Jenkins after mugging her in a London street and assaulting an emergency worker by beating them.
The teenager pleaded guilty to attacking the police constable during the incident in Chelsea last month.
New guidelines insist prosecutors seek the maximum sentence available in court and pursue the charge even when more serious offences have been committed, so that it appears on a defendant’s criminal record.
Mr Hill added: “We want to send a strong message that this deplorable behaviour will be met with the full force of the law.”
Over 14,000 charges were assaults by beating
The total number of offences prosecuted under the act – 19,771 – is a tally of the individual charges and not the total number of people charged.
Some 14,372 of these were assaults by beating, 5,362 were common assault, 36 were attempted assaults and one charge was for aiding or abetting an assault.
The CPS did not reveal the conviction rate for the entire year, but Ministry of Justice figures for 2018 – the first batch of charges brought under the act – show a 90% conviction rate.