Criminals who attack aid workers will face up to two years in prison under a new law announced by the government.
Ministers plan to come up with legislation to double the maximum sentence for those convicted of attacks on frontline personnel, including police officers and firefighters.
It will be the second amendment in two years after the 2018 Violence Assistants Act increased the maximum sentence from six months to one year.
The change also meant that when a person is convicted of crimes, including sexual assault or manslaughter, the judge must consider whether the crime was committed against a counselor as an aggravating factor deserving an increase in punishment.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Our police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders are our frontline heroes who risk their lives every day to keep us safe, yet some despicable individuals still think it is acceptable to attack, cough or spit these brave officials.
“This new law sends a clear and simple message to these mean villains – you will not get away with such horrible behavior and you will be subject to the force of the law.”
More than 11,000 people were prosecuted for assaulting a counselor in 2019, according to the Justice Department.
The Conservatives pledged in their 2019 election manifesto to consult on doubling the maximum penalty for attacking aid workers.
Violence may include pushing, shoving, or spitting, but more serious crimes can be prosecuted when a rescuer is seriously injured.
The new law will apply to police, prison staff, security guards, firefighters, search and rescue workers and primary health workers.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC said, “The gratitude we owe to our relief workers has never been greater. Every day they risk their lives to protect ours – they should never be hit, kicked, or spat on.
“Anyone who wants to harm prison staff, police, firefighters or health workers should have no illusions – your disgraceful behavior is unacceptable and you will feel the full force of the law.”
National Police Chiefs’ Council Chairman Martin Hewitt added, “It is never acceptable for someone to be attacked or hurt just because they show up to do their job.
“The police and their colleagues from the emergency services work hard every day to protect and protect the public.
“We will use the full force of the law to prosecute anyone who uses violence against those on the front lines and the doubling of the maximum sentence sends a clear signal that society will not tolerate abuse of our aid workers.”