The Assaults on emergency workers (Offences) Act 2018 came into force on 13th November 2018. This has the effect on making certain offences aggravated when committed against emergency workers.
The definition of emergency workers includes the following:
- Prison officer
- Prisoner custody officer
- Persons employed for the purposes of providing fire and rescue services
- Persons employed for the purposes of providing search and rescue services
- Persons employed for the purposes of providing NHS health services
The definition of emergency workers is therefore wide and includes custody staff and prison officers who you would not necessarily associate with providing ‘emergency’ services. The act is also wide in that it covers such people regardless of whether or not they are actually at work at the time of the incident; they merely need to be acting in the exercise of functions of such a worker.
The effect of the act is that those charged with offences of common assault and battery committed against emergency workers are triable either way and have a maximum sentence of 12 months imprisonment and/or unlimited fine. Previously, if charged with common assault or battery against an emergency worker the offence would be summary only and carry a maximum of 6 months imprisonment.
In addition the act sets out a number of offences that if committed against an emergency worker would be treated as an aggravating factor in sentencing. This requires the court to regard the offending as more serious, meriting an increased sentence within the maximum for the offence. The Act also requires the court to make a finding that the offence was aggravated and to state so in open court.