HL Deb 03 February 2005 vol 669 cc55-6WA
Lord Hanningfield

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have any plans to introduce legislation similar to the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Bill in England and Wales. [HL578]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal

We do not consider there is a need to introduce similar offences in England and Wales for attacks on workers in specific sectors. All assaults are wrong and the most important thing is that the severity of the sentence should reflect the relative seriousness of the crime.

In England and Wales the maximum sentence for assault is up to six months' imprisonment, and or a fine of up to £5,000. Where more serious injuries are suffered the more serious assault charges of causing actual bodily harm (maximum sentence of five years), and grievous bodily harm or wounding with intent (maximum of life imprisonment) or without intent (maximum of five years).

Sentencing guidelines introduced by the Magistrates' Association establish a series of aggravating factors where assaults are concerned. These include whether the assault was on a victim who was serving the public. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 established the Sentencing Guidelines Council, which is charged with drafting and distributing a new set of consolidated sentencing guidelines applicable across all criminal courts in England and Wales. The purpose of the guidelines is to ensure consistency and to require the courts to take account of all the relevant aggravating or mitigating features of a case. We expect that the guidelines will refer explicitly to the fact that a victim was at the time of the offence working with the public as an aggravating feature. We believe such guidelines are the right way to deal with aggravating factors in an offence.