Prime Minister Boris Johnson today shared extra measures to protect our emergency services workers, saying “you shouldn’t be aggressive towards people who after all are simply trying to save your life”.
Violence and assault on emergency workers from members of the public will be penalised; people working to save us should be protected. If for whatever reason you find yourself accused of assault on emergency workers, it is important to understand the consequences.
What is assault on an emergency worker?
Until November 2018, most low level assaults against emergency workers were charged as a Section 39 common assault which carries a maximum of 6 months imprisonment and can only be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court. The charge of assault on an emergency worker however created a new category of common assault. Emergency worker includes:
- Police officer
- Prison officer
- Person who works for the fire service
- NHS worker
What is the penalty for this offence?
The maximum penalty for assault on emergency workers increased from 6-12 months and the offence became an either way offence meaning that it could be dealt with either in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. The offence also carries an unlimited fine.
Sentencing guidelines are expected to come into force in 2021.
Will I be tried in the Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court?
In order to decide which venue you ought to be tried in for assault on emergency workers, you will require specialist legal advice. There are pros and cons to each, which are important considerations in making your decision on venue.
Are there any defences to the charge?
Was the person ‘acting in the execution of their duty’? The burden will be on the defendant to demonstrate they were not when assaulted and in those circumstances they cannot be “the exercise of their functions as an emergency worker”.
The CPS advice currently is to charge all of these offences under the new legislation and we have seen a significant increase in these cases over recent years.