MPs back new law to ‘protect the protectors’ after rise in assaults on emergency workers
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MPs have pledged to 'protect the protectors' after a sharp rise in the number of assaults on emergency workers.
While debating the Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill in the House of Commons, MPs from all parties praised frontline workers and agreed to a bolstering of the law.
The debate came as it was revealed there had been a 32pc increase in the number of assaults on police in the past year. There were more than 500 reported incidents of attacks on officers in Norfolk during that period.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb welcomed the bill which will now be debated in the House of Lords. He said: 'Emergency workers deserve our respect and support. They often find themselves in very challenging situations dealing with very angry and distressed people.
'It is important that we are giving them the protection they need so I support the bill.
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'The one caveat I do have is that they are sometimes dealing with people who are fraught and distressed and angry because of circumstances that maybe very traumatic and indeed they may be in the middle of a mental health crisis. It is important we deal with people sensitively.
'Of course anyone who gratuitously gets themselves blind drunk and becomes violent as a result must take the consequences of their actions. But there are sometimes circumstances when people behave in a certain way – which might be related to their mental health – and I want to make sure we deal with them compassionately.'
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The private members' bill was tabled by former Labour minister Chris Bryant and proposes to double the maximum sentence for attacks on workers and class spitting as common assault. The sentencing of sexual assaults on emergency staff will also be covered by the new law.
Mr Bryant said: 'The percentage change since 2012 in the East of England ambulance service is up 143%.
'When you've got 238 cases in the East of England ambulance service of sexual assaults on ambulance workers, I think parliament has to take cognisance of that and act.'
The new legislation – dubbed the Protect the Protectors Bill – gained support from across the chamber.
The bill will now get further scrutiny in the House of Lords.