SOUTH East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) has welcomed Royal Assent being received by a new Bill to protect emergency workers.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill has received cross-party support within parliament ahead of the formal approval stage on Thursday, September 13, and began as a private member’s bill introduced by Rhondda MP Chris Bryant.

The bill means a change in the law so the maximum prison sentence for common assault will double, from six months to one year, if the victim is an NHS worker, police and prison officer, firefighter, search and rescue volunteer or anyone who is attacked while assisting an emergency worker.

It also creates a statutory aggravating factor meaning that when a person is convicted of a range of offences including sexual assault, actual bodily harm (ABH), gross bodily harm (GBH) or manslaughter, the judge must consider the fact that the offence was committed against an emergency worker as an aggravating factor, meriting an increase in the sentence within the maximum allowed for the particular offence.

The Ministry of Justice said there had been more than 26,000 assaults on police officers in the past year and 17,000 assaults on NHS staff.

SECAmb chief executive Daren Mochrie said: “I welcome the fact that this bill has received cross-party support since its introduction and it is an important step to further protect our staff and volunteers as well as staff in our partner organisations.

“Ambulance crews must never be made to feel that violence, or indeed even the threat of violence, is a part of the job. People join the ambulance service to help others. They should never face abuse or be attacked and, of course, the huge majority of patients and members of the public know that any such behaviour is deplorable and would never think of hurting someone who saves lives and serves the community.

“Sadly however, there are a very small number of individuals who seem to think this kind of behaviour is acceptable and we will always work to take appropriate action against anyone who attacks or abuses our staff.”