Leicestershire's police commissioner welcomes latest steps to protect blue light workers on duty

Lord Willy Bach, police and crime commissioner for Leicestershire
Lord Willy Bach, police and crime commissioner for Leicestershire

Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner Lord Willy Bach has unreservedly backed efforts to impose harsher penalties on those who attack emergency services workers in the course of duty.

Speaking in the House of Lords on the second reading of The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, the PCC said police and all emergency response workers were subjected to a "frighteningly large" proportion of assaults every year - many of which were not recorded in official statistics.

Quoting data from the Police Federation's welfare study, he said there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults on police officers during a 12-month period and almost a further 303,000 assaults using a deadly weapon.

"My strong belief is that while it is impossible for there to be absolutely accurate figures, the position is probably a good deal worse than we want to believe," he said.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill proposes to create a new offence of assault against an emergency services worker in the exercise of their duty. Such an offence will have a maximum penalty of 12 months' imprisonment - double the current maximum penalty for common assault which stands at six months. The definition of assault for the purposes of the new legislation would include "spitting" which could be prosecuted in the same way.

The Government believes the increased penalty will allow the courts to sentence in a way that better reflects the serious circumstances of the assault and the victim.

"As emergency workers, they are individually and together, a crucial part of what makes our society civilised," Willy Bach told the House of Lords.

"Just imagine a day without them. Every one of them is vulnerable every day to physical assault and sometimes to sexual assault as well. The message in this Bill—the most important thing about it, for me—is that society must protect those who protect society.

"I see this Bill as something of a wake-up call. As a society we have perhaps become just a little too tolerant of behaviour which is actually intolerable. Some seem to think that emergency workers, wherever they are, somehow sign up to being assaulted when they take their job. The message of this Bill is loud and clear: no, they do not. It seems to me that a cultural shift is needed, and this Bill points the way."

The PCC said every Monday morning during his meeting with Chief Constable and his chief officer team he would hear about more assaults on police officers, Specials and PCSOs over the weekend.

"One of my hopes for the Bill is that it will act as an incentive for police officers to report more because, as I am sure the House will agree, it is always entirely unacceptable for police officers to be assaulted when they are doing their lawful duty and protecting all the rest of us," he added.