I have said before in this Chamber and will say it again: in my view, anybody who lays a malicious finger on a police officer, or indeed any emergency worker, should face swift and severe retribution through the criminal justice system. We recently announced our intention to double the maximum sentence for assaults on emergency workers.
I am encouraged by the Minister’s response. Last week, Sussex MPs met the south-east coast ambulance service team, and we were disturbed to hear of an increase in assaults where drink and drugs seems to be a factor. Can the Minister, through his Department and across Government, work to ensure that when it comes to policing, prosecution and sentencing of these individuals, drink or drug abuse is an aggravating factor, not a mitigating factor, and that we stand by our ambulance personnel and ensure that those who abuse them go behind bars?
There is absolutely no excuse for assaulting any kind of emergency worker, whether one is on drink or drugs or completely sober. I have to confess that I do not comprehend what goes on in the twisted mind of someone who would commit an assault, particularly on somebody in an ambulance who is coming to the medical aid of a fellow citizen. My hon. Friend raises a good point about aggravating factors. When we shortly consider, hopefully, the doubling of the sentence in legislation, I will certainly take that into account. The Sentencing Council is about to start a review of the sentencing of assault, and I urge him and others to make a submission to that forum as to aggravating factors.