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Violence against nurses: government plans to double prison sentence to two years

Extension to existing law will cover England and Wales

Extension to existing law will cover England and Wales

People who assault a nurse, or cough or spit at them, will face up to two years in prison under new legislation.

The government plans to double the maximum penalty for assaulting an emergency worker in England and Wales.

The extension will be the second time in two years that the penalty has increased.

In November 2018, a law was passed that raised the maximum prison sentence for assaulting emergency workers from six months to one year.

The new legislation follows a consultation in July when the government noted strong support among emergency workers for greater punishments for the offence.

Home secretary says you will not get away with such

Extension to existing law will cover England and Wales


Illustration: Daniel Mitchell

People who assault a nurse, or cough or spit at them, will face up to two years in prison under new legislation.

The government plans to double the maximum penalty for assaulting an emergency worker in England and Wales. 

The extension will be the second time in two years that the penalty has increased.

In November 2018, a law was passed that raised the maximum prison sentence for assaulting emergency workers from six months to one year.

The new legislation follows a consultation in July when the government noted strong support among emergency workers for greater punishments for the offence.

Home secretary says ‘you will not get away with such appalling behaviour’

In a statement, home secretary Priti Patel said: ‘Our police officers, firefighters and other emergency workers are our front-line heroes who put their lives on the line every single day to keep us safe, yet some despicable individuals still think it’s acceptable to attack, cough or spit at these courageous public servants.

‘This new law sends a clear and simple message to these vile thugs – you will not get away with such appalling behaviour and you will be subject to the force of the law.’

The doubling of the penalty is due to come into effect next year.

Statistics reveal most attackers receive short sentences

According to the latest statistics, 11,257 people were prosecuted for assaulting an emergency worker in England and Wales in 2019 under the current legislation.

Of these, 9,350 were found guilty, and 1,533 were given a custodial sentence.

Only one person out of the 1,533 was sentenced to between six and nine months in custody, the rest served shorter sentences.

Assaults of a more severe nature against emergency workers could be prosecuted under other laws, such as for grievous bodily harm, which carry a greater penalty.


Related material

Criminal justice system statistics quarterly: December 2019

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