Last Friday, I spoke in the Chamber of the House of Commons in support of a Private Members’ Bill aimed at tougher sentences for people who assault emergency workers.
The Bill, submitted by Rhondda Labour MP Chris Bryant, aims to increase the sentences for assaults against emergency workers.
Every year thousands of emergency service workers are assaulted in this country. Figures show that more than 24,000 police officers were assaulted between 2016 and 2017 in England and Wales. In Kent alone, 669 assaults on police officers were recorded during this period.
As well as assaults against the police, more than 70,000 NHS staff were attacked between 2015 and 2016 and there were more than 7,000 assaults on prison officers last year, up by a third on the previous year.
As I said last week in Parliament, an assault on an emergency worker is not just simply a case of disrespect, but undermines the very fabric of our society. It places such assaults in a category all of their own.
In my experience during my 20 years of working in the criminal justice system, the courts generally treated assaults on front-line and emergency workers in a context of aggravation and tougher sentences tended to be imposed.
Notwithstanding that, it is right for us to put those protections in statute and reassure emergency workers in particular, that we, as a Parliament, a country and a society, are behind them through legal means.
It is good that this Bill has strong cross party support, but I know from my experience of my own Private Members’ Bill how difficult it is to get one passed.
I am really pleased this Bill has passed the first hurdle as it will be a valuable contribution to the criminal justice system, reassuring emergency workers they are protected by the country they serve.