You are here:

House of Commons Library

Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill 2017-19

Published Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill 2017-19 is a Private Member’s Bill, introduced by Chris Bryant. It would introduce a new offence of assaulting an emergency worker, new sentencing guidance, and new powers to take bodily samples from suspects. This Briefing Paper discusses the background to and content of the Bill.

Jump to full report >>

The current law and calls for change

In England and Wales there are currently specific offences of assaulting on-duty police officers, prison officers, and immigration officers. Each of these offences is triable only in the magistrates’ court and carries a maximum sentence of six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine.

These offences are broadly equivalent (in terms of seriousness and injury caused) to the general offence of common assault and battery. Assaults resulting in a more serious level of injury would usually be charged as one of the more serious general offences against the person.

It is not currently a specific offence to assault other emergency workers or NHS staff. Again, such assaults would instead be prosecuted using one of the general criminal offences against the person.

Current sentencing guidelines set out the general principle that an offence committed against a public servant is an aggravating factor indicating “a more than usually serious degree of harm”. The courts should therefore take this into account when sentencing an offender who has assaulted an emergency worker.

There have been a number of calls for change to the law in England and Wales, in particular to introduce specific offences covering other emergency workers and healthcare workers (as is the case in Scotland), to increase the maximum available sentence and to cover more serious types of assault.

The Bill

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill 2017-19 is a Private Member’s Bill, introduced by Chris Bryant (who topped the ballot for Private Members’ Bills). The Bill had its first reading on 19 July 2017 and is due to have its second reading on 20 October 2017.

The Bill extends to England and Wales, except for clause 8 (samples under terrorism legislation) which also extends to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Policing minister Nick Hurd has said that the Government supports the spirit and principle of the Bill, but that “there will be detail to work through”.

The Bill would:

  • introduce a new triable either way offence of assault or battery committed against an emergency worker, with a maximum penalty of a 12 month prison sentence when tried in the Crown court;
  • introduce a statutory aggravating factor for the courts to consider when sentencing certain assaults against emergency workers; and
  • enable bodily samples to be taken from persons suspected of offences against emergency workers which may pose a risk of the transmission of an infectious disease.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8113

Authors: Sally Lipscombe; Grahame Allen

Topics: Crimes of violence, Criminal law, Emergency services, Health staff and professions

Share this page

Stay up to date

  • Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to Email alerts Commons Briefing papers

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.