Wales politics

Tougher measures for 999 staff attacks backed

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Media captionChris Bryant: "It's amazing those staff still go the extra mile for the British public"

A Welsh MP's bill calling for tougher punishments for attacks on emergency workers has taken a step closer to becoming law.

Chris Bryant wants to double the maximum sentence for common assault against them from six months to a year.

"We've got to stand by them because they stand by us," the Rhondda MP said.

Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said they showed "remarkable courage" and confirmed UK government backing for the bill, which passed its second reading.

Mr Bryant had asked his constituents to choose their preferred new law from a list of options after he won a ballot of MPs to introduce a private member's bill.

He said there were thousands of assaults on emergency workers every year and that the number had risen dramatically to about 275 a day.

The Rhondda MP said he had personally witnessed children throwing bricks at fire officers as they tried to put out a mountain blaze.

He called for a zero-tolerance attitude, saying: "An attack on an emergency worker is an attack on all of us."

The legislation would cover attacks on police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and certain healthcare workers including ambulance staff.

Under the bill, the fact the victim is an emergency worker would be considered as an aggravating factor by judges in offences including common assault, actual bodily harm and grievous bodily harm.

The legislation would also give the power to take blood samples, with consent, from people who have spat at or bitten emergency workers and exposed them to the risk of infection.

Failure to provide a blood sample without good cause would also become an offence.

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