Assaults bill backed by Welsh Assembly
The bill seeking to give police officers and other emergency personnel better protection from assaults has taken a further step forward with the Welsh Assembly backing the proposed new law.
On Tuesday evening members of the Welsh Assembly Government voted to allow the proposed UK legislation, which will lead to tougher sentences for those who attack emergency service workers, take effect in Wales.
Andrea Breeze, Cleveland Police Federation chair, has welcomed the Welsh Assembly members' support for the bill.
"Police officers are committed to serving their communities, fighting and preventing crime, tackling crime and protecting the vulnerable. Of course, there is an acceptance that we are often dealing with people in extreme circumstances with heightened emotions. However, there can be no excuse for the sustained and deliberate assaults on police officers - and other emergency service workers - that we are now hearing about on an almost daily basis," she explained.
"We all need better protection in law with sentences that act as a punishment to those who attack emergency service workers and also as a deterrent to others. I am pleased the Welsh Assembly has supported this bill and taken us closer to it becoming law."
If enacted, The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, which received its second reading in the House of Commons last year, will:
- Introduce new offences including wounding or assault when perpetrated against an emergency worker in the performance of their duties
- Compel those suspected of assault - including spitting - who may pose a health risk to undergo blood tests
- Make it an offence to refuse to undergo such tests, and
- Lay down tough sentences for those convicted of these new offences.?
The bill is the culmination of the Federation's nationwide Protect the Protectors campaign which has won cross-party support from MPs and other partners.
Rhondda MP Chris Byrant, who is sponsoring the bill in Parliament, said: "An attack on an emergency worker is, in a sense, an attack on all of us because they're simply trying to save other people's lives. I just think that we need to say loud and clear that if you attack an emergency worker, we will not put up with it."
Calum Macleod, chair of the Police Federation for England and Wales, has welcomed the bill's progress. He explained: "The result in Wales this week is incredibly encouraging as it's what we have been working towards for the past few years. Getting support in the Welsh Assembly will hopefully move us a step closer to getting the result we need in order to help protect our members. Day in, day out, officers put concerns for their own safety behind their desire to protect the public and serve their communities.
"The law has to change to show how heinous it is to attack any member of the emergency services. It should never be the case that violence is accepted as 'just part of the job'. We will continue to push our Protect the Protectors campaign until the law is enacted and I hope that Members of Parliament in Westminster will continue to support these legislative changes and pass this legislation in April."