Employment law: interfering with emergency services becomes a criminal offence

A Bill that makes it a criminal offence to assault or obstruct emergency services workers is now virtually certain to become law after getting the all-clear from MPs.

The Emergency Workers (Obstruction) Bill – a private members’ Bill introduced by Labour MP Alan Williams – has sufficient parliamentary time to complete its passage through the Lords stages and become law.

The legislation would mean that people who “obstruct or hinder” workers, such as firefighters, ambulance staff, nurses and coastguards, could face up to a year in prison and a £5,000 fine. More serious assaults will still be prosecuted under the common law.

“People who risk their lives to save others should not be obstructed, and should be free to undertake their rescue work without obstruction and attack by yobs and idiots,” Williams said.

The Bill also has a clause that will allow other categories of workers to be added in the future. Parts of the Bill dealing with assaults were removed as they were already covered by other legislation.

The Fire Brigades Union recently published research showing that attacks on UK fire crews were running at 40 a week.

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