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Assaults bill wins cross-party support

MPs have supported a new bill that will bring better protection for police officers and emergency service workers.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Private Members' Bill, introduced by Labour MP Chris Bryant, received unanimous support from MPs during its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday.

"This is a major step forward for this bill," says Tiff Lynch, chairman of Leicestershire Police Federation, "I think everyone in the police service - and our emergency service colleagues - should be grateful to Halifax MP Holly Lynch who first got behind us on this and also to Mr Bryant who took on this issue.

"Sadly, in recent years it has appeared that assaults on police officers and other blue light workers have been seen as just part of the job. That cannot be allowed to continue. This bill will hopefully continue to progress through Parliament so that those who attack us feel the full weight of the law."

The bill will:

  • Introduce new offences including wounding or assault when perpetrated against an emergency worker in the performance of their duties
  • Compel those suspected of assault - including spitting - who may pose a health risk to undergo blood tests
  • Make it an offence to refuse to undergo such tests, and
  • Lay down tough sentences for those convicted of these new offences.

During the debate in the House of Commons, cross-party support and messages of thanks to Labour colleagues Ms Lynch and Mr Bryant were overwhelming.

MPs recounted some traumatic personal accounts of attacks on police, nurses, firefighters, paramedics and more.

Calum Macleod, vice chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said after the vote: "This is a great result for emergency service workers in England and Wales. The Government has done as pledged and backed the bill.

"Today's result is a move in the right direction but there is still some way to go. We now need to be allocated sufficient Parliamentary time for the bill to be scrutinised, amended if necessary and enacted.

"This will be such a monumental change in the law that means so much - we need to get it right and we need to get it legislated soon. Our emergency services need better protection now - they need to go about their jobs knowing that there are stronger deterrents and stronger sanctions in place.

"We have been supported by so many to get thus far, specifically by Holly Lynch MP and Chris Bryant MP. The outpouring of public support had been astounding and a tremendous boost for those who take extreme risks to help others. We thank those who continue to support our calls to better Protect the Protectors."

The next step involves taking the bill to committee stage, which Mr Bryant hopes will be in the next couple of weeks, possibly progressing to statute by Easter.