On 13 November 2018, new provisions came into force when dealing with an assault on staff. The Crown Prosecution Service have also released new charging guidance for dealing with these offences and all practitioners will need to be up to date with the change in the law.
Section 1(2) of the Act provides that existing offences of common assault and battery are triable either way and carry a maximum sentence of 12 months imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
This is met where a common assault of battery is committed against an emergency worker acting in the exercise of functions of such a worker.
What is the definition of an emergency worker?
They are defined in Section 3(1) of the new Act. They of course include police officers, prison officers, custody officers, fire or rescues services and importantly NHS staff.
An interesting development will be how the Court deals with the requirement that an emergency worker is ‘acting in the exercise of functions of such a worker.’ It is not defined within the Act and CPS guidance advises Prosecutors to identify and obtain evidence of what the emergency worker was doing at the time. Lawyers will need to consider carefully the evidence provided and whether the lesser charge would be more appropriate.
Statutory Aggravating Factor
Section 2 of the Act provides a statutory aggravating factor for other more serious offences that are not covered such as threats to kill, wounding with intent, sexual assault and others which are set out in the Act. However lawyers should also note Section 2(3) which allows the Court to treat an offence committed against an emergency worker as an aggravating feature despite that offence not being set out in the Act.
The aggravating factor requires the Court to regard the offending as more serious, meriting an increase within the maximum for the offence. The Act also requires the Court to make a finding that the Act was aggravated and to state this in open court. This is similar to matters which are racially or religiously motivated.
If you are charged with an offence under the new provisions and require advice please contact the Public Defender Service and one of our lawyers will be able to assist.