The Talking Politics column with Halifax MP Holly Lynch

Walkabout: Talking to Chief Insp Nick Smart in the Piece Hall.
Walkabout: Talking to Chief Insp Nick Smart in the Piece Hall.

After over two years of campaigning, this month should see the Protect the Protectors Bill gain Royal Assent, meaning that these protections designed to keep firefighters, police officers and NHS workers safer, will finally become law.

Regular Courier readers may already be familiar with the campaign which has sought to introduce harsher penalties for those who seek to attack and injure our brave emergency service workers.

Halifax MP Holly Lynch.

Halifax MP Holly Lynch.

Just last week we saw the dangers faced by our local police when a Calderdale officer was bitten and treated for potential infections.

The new law will ensure that attacks on our 999 responders, NHS workers and prison officers, are treated with the utmost seriousness in the courts, as these workers are acting on behalf of society.

The initial campaign was born out of an eye-opening experience I had while shadowing West Yorkshire Police in Halifax two years ago.

Government cuts to police numbers mean that officers working alone are routinely being asked to attend often dangerous situations, and are inevitably more vulnerable when doing so.

As a result we have seen an increase in the number of attacks on police officers, a pattern which has been reflected across the emergency services and sadly in our hospitals and prisons.

Following that incident, when a routine vehicle stop quickly escalated and the officer found himself surrounded by an angry mob, it was clear that more needed to be done to protect our emergency workers from those who wish to do them harm.

Having secured a debate with a view to changing the law on this issue, I was saddened and depressed to be contacted by 999 workers all over the country sharing their experiences of being attacked whilst at work, some with devastating consequences.

I was particularly horrified at the recurring pattern on female paramedics being sexually assaulted often by intoxicated men in the back of ambulances and so I am pleased that the new law applies to a wide range of emergency service workers, and encompasses a variety of existing assaults, including sexual assault.

The law change has been supported by the Police Federation, the Royal College of Nursing, Unison, the Fire Bridges Union, and the GMB union, all of whom recognised that their members needed greater protections from assault.

With these protections about to pass into law, they will form a new deterrent, and help push a cultural change in these services so that assaults are better reported and no longer seen as just ‘part of the job’.

It’s extremely difficult and rare for a backbench opposition MP to secure a change in the law, so I’m delighted that this campaign has been a success.

I’m proud to support the many hard-working men and women who face serious assault and abuse simply for doing their jobs trying to keep us all safe and well, and I want to thank those officers, paramedics, nurses and firefighters who have allowed me to tell their stories.