A NATIONAL campaign for a judicial crackdown on offenders who attack frontline emergency workers has taken a huge step towards achieving its goal, says Workington MP Mark Jenkinson.

The politician is among a Parliamentary group which is pressing for a doubling of the maximum sentence available to the courts for people who violently target emergency workers such as ambulance staff, NHS workers, and frontline police officers. At present, courts can impose up to a year in jail. That will increase to two years if the proposal is accepted.

The government has now launched public consultation on the plan.

Mr Jenkinson has been a leading voice in the battle to bring in tougher sentences.

He spoke of a recent story by our sister newspaper The Cumberland News story revealed how dozens of frontline Cumbrian police officers had been assaulted during lockdown. Mr Jenkinson has been working with dozens of colleagues on the campaign.

“I support that fully,” said the MP, a member of the Conservative Party’s Blue Collar ‘caucus” group in Parliament.

“It’s a bigger issue that people realise and articles [such as the one in The Cumberland News] show that.

“You’d expect a few cases of police assault – but not dozens.”

“Emergency workers put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf every single day and it’s up to us to protect them. It’s just unacceptable for somebody to spit at or assault a police officer or any emergency worker.

“We need to take a harder line of people who do this and give judges the tools they need deal with this. It’s about protecting our emergency workers so that these incidents don’t happen in the first place.

“There should be a maximum 24-month sentence because that would be a deterrent for people and make them think twice.”

“Our emergency services are second to none. I thank them for working tirelessly to protect us across the county, often with little thought for their own safety or wellbeing.”

“It is right that Government is consulting on increasing the maximum sentence to two years and I encourage my constituents, including those working in the emergency services to make representations to the consultation.”

The campaign is also being backed by a Cumbrian police officer who was subjected to horrific violence by a man she was trying to help has backed a campaign for tougher sentences to punish those who attack emergency workers.

Three years ago, PC Diane Irving sustained agonising facial injuries in an unprovoked attack in Carlisle.

The thug who assaulted her served just 76 days in prison.

PC Irving said she fully supported the campaign to double the maximum jail term for assaulting an emergency worker from one year in jail to two.

“Anything that can help deter a potential assault would be good,” she said.

“As police officers, we often speak to victims of crime but we don’t want to end up being victims of crime ourselves. We don’t go to work for that; we go to work to help people. We don’t go to work to be assaulted. Just because you wear a uniform it doesn’t give somebody the right to punch you. There should be something in place that means people don’t even think about doing that.” It is now two years since the Government introduced a 12 month maximum jail term for an person convicted of assaulting an emergency worker. But public consultation is now underway on a proposal to double that maximum to a two year sentence.

Supporters say this would better protect police officers, NHS staff, firefighters and ambulance crews who have been targeted in the past.

Cumbrian police officer Paul Williams is chairman of the county’s Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers.

“We have campaigned on increasing sentences for people who assault emergency workers,” said Mr Williams.

“It’s something we’d welcome. We want the courts to take it more seriously; and we want the Crown Prosecution Service to take it more seriously to encourage prosecutions.”

Mr Williams said the violence aimed at police officers who are simply doing their duty can have a huge psychological impact. “I still actively do frontline duties around public order and I’ve been there myself,” he said. “When there is violence directed towards you purely because you are wearing a uniform and trying to keep the peace it almost makes you despair about the way humanity can treat one another.

“It can also really affect your personal life.

“It can affect your family, who have to worry about how going to work can get you injured. I have represented officers who have suffered injuries in the line of duty and even had to be medically retired.

“I’ve represented officers who have been subjected to violent assaults and suffered extreme mental anxiety following assaults. I have been in the force for 20 years and I’ve been assaulted many times.”

Mr Williams said those attacks have at various times left him with black eyes, burst lips, a even on one occasion with a chunk bitten out of his leg.

Commenting on the view among fellow officers about tougher sentences, Mr Williams added: “There’s absolutely solid support.

“There are always cases where there may well be people with serious mental disorders and you can forgive that. But those who are deliberately targeting police officers because they don’t want to be arrested - that’s not acceptable.”

Carlisle MP John Stevenson said the law should treat emergency service workers as a “special case.”

“When they go out to emergency calls, or to deal with an incident, they have no idea what they are about to face,” said Mr Stevenson.

“I feel that society has a duty to protect them and ensure that they are looked after.

“If there is any assault on those individuals, then the severity of any sentence should take that into account. Then an emergency worker goes to work – whether they’re working with the police, or in a hospital, or wherever – they’re entitled to be safe.

“It should be accepted that there will be a more severe penalty for anybody who attacks them.”

To read more about the consultation log on to shorturl.at/tABKS