New rules to crack down on people who obstruct emergency workers come into force today (Tuesday).
The new offences mean that anyone who gets in the way of an emergency worker in England and Wales responding to emergency situations can now be prosecuted and fined up to £5,000.
The emergency workers covered by the new offence are firefighters, ambulance workers, people transporting blood, organs or equipment on behalf of the NHS, coastguards and lifeboat crews.
Police and prison officers are not included as there is already a separate law protecting them from obstruction.
Home office minister Gerry Sutcliffe said: “Too often emergency workers are unable to get to incidents as quickly as they should due to a minority of people obstructing their rescue efforts.
“This seriously impacts on both the emergency workers’ ability to do their jobs effectively and, even more worryingly, on those who require an emergency response. In some instances a delay of just a couple of minutes can have terrible consequences.”
Violence against emergency workers can be dealt with under existing laws, such as assault or actual bodily harm. Sentencing guidelines stipulate that the court should impose tougher sentences for offences committed against public sector workers.
The Bill, which was introduced by Labour MP Alan Williams, was supported by the government and received Royal Assent on 8 November 2006.