A crackdown on violence against 999 workers is set to be rubber-stamped after ambulance bosses protested about the lenient term handed out to a Wigan lout.
Thugs who attack victims including police, prison officers, firefighters and paramedics will face longer jail terms under the strengthened regime.
The announcement comes after the case of Adam James, then 23, provoked outrage last November, when he was given a 14-month suspended jail sentence after he broke a paramedic’s wrist. Amy Holtom was also left with cuts and bruising to her lower legs after being kicked by James, who was wearing steel toe-capped footwear, while she tried to help him in Birmingham.
Her plight led to ambulance chiefs’ demanding greater protection for frontline staff and prompted calls for the Attorney General to review James’s punishment imposed by a Birmingham judge.
After the attack Amy said: “I think this is appalling and shows how little the courts think of us. Anyone else would have been looking at time in jail, but yet again ambulance staff have been let down by the legal system.”
Now the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill has received Royal Assent, the measures coming into force in November.
Labour MP Chris Bryant, who presented the Private Members’ Bill, said: “The growing tide of attacks on emergency workers, including ambulance workers, NHS staff, fire officers, prison officers and police, is a national scandal.
“All too often attackers get away with little more than a slap on the wrist. I hope this new law will help put a stop to that attitude.”
The Government backed the law, which will also mean judges must consider tougher sentences for a range of other offences, including GBH and sexual assault, if the victim is an emergency worker.
Justice Minister Rory Stewart said: “Assaulting prison officers or any emergency worker is not just an isolated attack, it represents violence against the public as a whole.”
Kim Sunley, national officer at the Royal College of Nursing, added: “Physical assaults remain a fact of life for many healthcare workers, from A&E to community services. This Bill is the first step towards changing that for good.”
Prof Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England, said: “We have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to deliberate threats, abuse or violence made to any NHS staff. This behaviour from patients or members of the public will never be tolerated and should rightly be reported to the police.”