The CPS takes offences against emergency service personnel extremely seriously. Between November 2018 and November 2019, the first year of the offence coming into effect, almost 20,000 offences were charged under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018, three quarters of which were assaults by beating; there were 19,771 offences against emergency workers, including 5,362 common assaults. In January, the CPS published a joint agreement with the National Police Chiefs’ Council, NHS England, the National Fire Chiefs Council and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service. This shared understanding, and it will ensure that cases continue to be prosecuted and investigated effectively.
Reports of serious and violent crimes endured by emergency services staff have caused some of my constituents worry and anguish about loved ones who work in this area. What assurances can my right hon. and learned Friend give my constituents that the Government are taking steps to reduce serious and violent crime?
My hon. Friend is right to raise this point. I warn anyone who engages in any type of offence against an emergency service worker that the law will deal with them harshly; the estimated conviction rate, based on the first cases to go through the courts, was 90%. It is right that we see uplifts in sentence for those who assault emergency service workers, who serve the public diligently and courageously.
I thank the Minister for that answer. I think everybody in this House will endorse the idea that we should protect the protectors, so will he assure us that we will seek the maximum sentence when prosecuting these crimes?
Sentencing is a matter for the courts, but I agree with my hon. Friend in practice. A review sample revealed that nine in 10 assaults were against police officers. Almost all of those took place when the attacker was intoxicated by drink or drugs, and when they were being arrested or an unrelated offence was involved. Spitting was common. The violence perpetrated was wide-ranging, and included kicking, punching, headbutting, slapping and biting. The courts should and will come down on these offenders.