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Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018

12 October 2018

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 (“the Act”) received royal assent on 13 September 2018 and is due to come into force on 13 November 2018. The Act makes changes to offences committed against emergency workers and persons assisting emergency workers, in particular with regards to sentencing powers available to the court.

An emergency worker is defined in the Act and includes those employed to provide NHS health services, and those employed in services that support the provision of NHS health services. It does not matter if the employment is paid or unpaid.

The Act increases the sentencing powers available to the courts following a conviction for an offence of common assault or battery which is committed against an emergency worker from 6 months to a maximum of 12 months imprisonment in the Crown Court. It should be noted that the emergency worker does not have to be working when the assault takes place providing they are carrying out the functions of an emergency worker at the time of the offence.

In addition, the Act lists a range of other offences such as assault occasioning actual bodily harm, threats to kill, and grievous bodily harm, which if committed against an emergency worker will be deemed to be aggravated and thereby merit increased penalty. The Act states that the court must make clear when sentencing that the seriousness of the offence is increased as a result of the victim being an emergency worker.

The Act was introduced following growing concerns that emergency workers are increasingly becoming victims of physical assault. There are a huge number of assaults upon NHS staff annually and it has been acknowledged by Justice Minister Rory Stewart that such staff deserve to be better protected. Given that the Act increases the seriousness of an offence if committed against an emergency worker, it is to be hoped that this will serve as a deterrent and thereby reduce offences against those carrying out this important work.

The Criminal Compliance and Regulatory Team at Browne Jacobson are able to assist hospital trusts and staff in connection with police investigations and criminal prosecutions following incidence of assault upon staff. This includes advice upon matters such as the provision of a witness statement to the police and support in connection with any subsequent court appearance.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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