The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has prosecuted more than 50 assaults a day in the first year of legislation making attacks on emergency workers a specific offence, new figures show.
Between November 2018 and 2019, almost 20,000 offences were charged under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act – three-quarters of which were assault by beating.
A review sample carried out by the CPS revealed that nine in ten assaults were against police officers – almost always when the attacker was intoxicated on drink or drugs and being arrested for an unrelated offence.
The review sample also found that spitting was common, but the violence perpetrated was wide-ranging and included kicking, punching, head-butting, slapping and biting.
A spokesperson for the CPS tweeted to say:
“We are today sending a message that assaults on emergency workers are totally unacceptable and will be met with the full force of the law.
The CPS data is based on the number of offences charged, rather than individual defendants.
Ministry of Justice figures for 2018, based on the first cases to go through the courts, show a conviction rate of 90 per cent.
Following a series of high-profile assaults last summer, the Director of Public Prosecutions met with police colleagues to discuss their concerns about rising levels of violence towards officers.
In response, the CPS has issued revised guidance to prosecutors clarifying their approach to these cases.
The CPS also published a joint agreement with emergency services chiefs across the country.
Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said:
“Emergency workers provide a vital public service – the fact they endure vile abuse like spitting and even physical assault in the course of their duties is appalling and unacceptable.
“These attacks must never be considered as ‘just part of the job’.
“These are serious crimes, and it is encouraging to see our prosecutors have used the new legal powers to bring offenders to justice.
“Having been made aware of police concerns during the first year of this new legislation, I have met with senior officers and the CPS has updated legal guidance to strengthen our approach to these appalling offences.”
Details have been published of a new joint agreement that has been formed between the National Police Chiefs Council, NHS England, HM Prison Service and the National Fire Chiefs Council to prosecute cases robustly and support staff.
Measures in the updated AEW guidance include:
• Ensuring that prosecutors seek the maximum sentence in court, including playing any body-worn footage to the judge;
• Impressing upon prosecutors the need to charge assaults on emergency workers where the Code Test is met, even where more serious offences have been committed, so the conduct is reflected on the defendant’s criminal record;
• Taking victims’ views into account when pleas to other offences are accepted, or cases discontinued, with special consideration given to the vulnerability of the emergency worker, at the time of the assault;
• Underlining the requirement to treat assaults committed on bail or licence as an aggravating feature.
Mr Hill added: “We want to send a strong message that this deplorable behaviour will be met with the full force of the law.”
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