'A long time coming' - Norfolk police federation welcomes roll-out of new law to protect 999 workers
The police federation for Norfolk has said a new law to protect emergency service workers which comes into force today has been a "long time coming".
The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act comes into force on Tuesday, having received royal assent in September.
It will see those who assault police, paramedics, nurses and other blue light workers face harsher sentences, doubling the maximum penalty from six to 12 months.
In Norfolk, 390 police officers were assaulted in 2016/17, compared to 515 in 2017/18, a 32pc increase.
Of the 515, 383 left no injury and 132 caused injury.
Andy Symonds, chairman of Norfolk Police Federation (NPF), said he hoped the new legislation would act as a deterrent and provide justice for 999 workers.
He said: “This change in law has been a long time coming for the officers I represent. Norfolk officers are facing unprecedented levels of violence against them, so the least the law and in turn the courts can do is protect them.
“I along with officers and their families are simply fed up of their loved ones returning home with injuries having been assaulted at work.
“Sadly, these assaults are becoming more violent with officers sustaining broken bones, knocked unconscious and being spat at.
“When these cases reaches court, the sentences handed down offer no deterrent.”
He said he hoped the legislation sent a clear signal to magistrates and judges that “as a society we have allowed a culture to develop that it is acceptable to assault an emergency worker”.
“Let me be clear, it is not, I expect that we now see stronger sentences that act as a deterrent,” he said.
“I acknowledge that we did not get everything we wanted from this new act – I feel sentences are still not as strong as they need to be – this is a significant step forward in the right direction and myself and colleagues around the country will continue to make the case for a stronger deterrent, for a wider roll-out of Taser, and to continue to call for more central government funding to allow the recruitment of more police officers to replace the 21,000 we’ve lost.”
The Police Federation of England and Wales launched a Protect the Protectors campaign in February 2017.