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Emergency Workers: Assaults

Volume 695: debated on Tuesday 18 May 2021

In 2019, 11,257 cases were prosecuted for an assault against an emergency worker and in that year 9,066 resulted in conviction and sentencing. As you may know, Mr Speaker, the Government are legislating to double the maximum sentence for an assault on an emergency worker from 12 to 24 months. Just this morning, we had Committee proceedings taking evidence on that and the move was widely welcomed by the police chiefs who gave evidence to our Committee.

It sounds as though that was a very well-written piece of legislation in the first place because it seems to be having an effect. However, we do still have large numbers of emergency workers being assaulted and the Sentencing Council still has not produced new guidelines to insist that magistrates must treat simply spitting as a “proper assault”. Especially in the last year, that has become more important than ever before. May I ask the Minister: how many of the people who have been prosecuted have had sentences longer than six months? That is the key to determining whether lengthening maximum sentences to two years will be effective.

I should start by congratulating the hon. Gentleman on the instrumental role that he played in bringing forward the legislation to which I have just referred. On the question of Sentencing Council guidelines, I understand that the Sentencing Council, which is independent of Government, is in the process of looking at the sentencing guidelines. I hope that it will reflect the very strong feelings on both sides of this House about the seriousness of assaulting an emergency worker and that it will bear that in mind when it publishes those revised guidelines. I am afraid I do not have to hand the number of those being sentenced to more than six months; of course many will be. Where the assault is more serious, it will be prosecuted as grievous bodily harm or GBH with intent, which carry much higher maximum sentences. I am happy to write to the hon. Gentleman with those figures if that will assist him.