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New laws no deterrent for attackers of emergency service workers

ATTACKS on emergency service workers are still widespread despite new laws that make them a specific offence carrying longer prison sentences.

General union GMB, which successfully campaigned for changes in the law and sentencing policy, says arrests involving such attacks need to be matched by prosecutions, tougher sentencing and culture change.

The new laws doubled the maximum sentence for an attack on emergency service workers from six months to 12 months.

Holly Lynch, Labour MP for Halifax, backed the union’s campaign and says that the new laws have not had the deterrent effect that was hoped for.

New figures reveal that 6,500 arrests have been made for attacks on emergency service workers such as ambulance, paramedic and accident and emergency unit hospital staff since the law changed.

Ms Lynch said: “It didn’t go quite as far as we would like in terms of being a deterrent.

“What I’m seeing far too often is, when sentences are handed out, they are suspended sentences or things like community resolutions … which are not enforceable.”

GMB last year ran the successful Protect the Protectors campaign to change the law. Ms Lynch and MP Chris Bryant successfully spearheaded its passage through Parliament.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 came into effect on November 13 2018.

GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said: “GMB’s campaign was key in securing legislation changes to protect our emergency service workers from violent assaults at work.

“It’s welcome to see arrests taking place but we also want to see an increase in prosecutions and tougher sentences handed down for these unacceptable assaults.

“The new law is only going to work if it is applied fully. That will be the deterrent that is much needed to really protect our members.

“Facing violence at work should never be considered just part of the job.”

Police officers are also among those attacked.

West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Brian Booth said the tougher new sentencing law was no good if it was not being used.

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