Those who assault emergency service workers will now be jailed for twice as long as a new law comes into force today offering greater protection to those who work on the frontline.
The current six-month maximum sentence for common assault will be doubled to a year for the new crime created by the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, which has today been given royal assent.
It makes it a specific criminal offence to assault workers including police, paramedics, firefighters and prison officers.
It will also enable judges to increase terms given to people committed for a range of other crimes where the involvement of emergency services was an “aggravating factor”, including sexual assault.
In the past year assaults with injury on officers in Wiltshire have almost doubled, from 55 in 2016/17 to 103 in 2017/18.
This increase is something that is reflected throughout the South West and Wiltshire Police has systems, training and equipment in place to combat this threat whilst continuing to keep the public safe.
Additional measures being explored include spit and bite guards, enhanced Taser numbers and a seven-point assault plan supporting officers and staff abused and assaulted on duty.
Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said: “I pleased that the law is starting to recognise the increased risk of working for the emergency services.
“This Act is a welcome change and I hope that the legal momentum continues in protecting emergency service workers.
“As with any job there are highs and lows, but being injured and abused on duty should not be part and parcel of working for the police.
“It’s paramount that the law protects our officers, staff and volunteers whilst they’re protecting us.
“I am thoroughly committed to ensuring that whilst the police serve our communities to keep them safe that we should do the same in return and recognise the additional risk in their jobs.”
Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said that although most assaults on staff, officers and volunteers are at the lower end of the scale, any violence or abuse at all on those providing a policing service to the public should not be tolerated.
He said: “As recent events have shown, our officers, staff and Special Constables put themselves in danger responding to incidents with limited information on a daily basis.
“They continuously run into danger whilst others run away. I speak to officers on a near daily basis that have been assaulted or abused on duty.
“Facing this type of treatment simply because you wear a uniform is disgraceful and there should be no excuse or tolerance of it, I am pleased to see that this will now start to be recognised more in court.
“Alongside the personal impact statements that I provide to the court, this new legislation will provide greater sentencing flexibility to those passing judgment in court.
“Ideally, I hope the Act will serve as a stronger deterrent which should lead to a significant reduction in the level of assaults on my staff.
“As a Force we are now working on introducing additional measures to ensure that our officers have increased protection going forward and are adequately supported when they become victims themselves.”