THE Government has agreed to amend laws to increase sentences for assaults causing harm to members of An Garda Síochána and other emergency workers.
These legislative changes will be brought forward by way of Committee Stage amendments to the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.
The amendments will change the maximum sentence for assaulting or obstructing a police officer from 7 to 12 years.
The increase in maximum sentence will apply where the assault causing harm in question is against an on duty Garda or emergency service worker, such as hospital staff, prison officers, members of the fire brigade, ambulance personnel or members of the Defence Forces.
Minister Harris said, “Assaulting a Garda or another emergency worker in the course of their duties is inexcusable and shows flagrant disregard for the rule of law.
“No person who puts on a uniform and goes to work with the ultimate mission of keeping members of the public safe deserves to be targeted, attacked or obstructed while doing that job.
“Assaults on emergency workers can have serious impacts on the direct victim, who are sometimes left with life and career-changing injuries.
“But we also need to be cognisant of the ripple effect these assaults can have on public safety if, as a result of injury to an emergency worker or damage to a vehicle, the emergency service available to members of the public is negatively affected – assaults on emergency workers can victimise the communities that they serve too,” said Minister Harris.
The legislation applies to any assault – any unlawful use of force, or threat of force, direct or indirect – against a Garda or emergency worker.
That might be a punch, it may involve the use of a weapon, or it might be ramming their vehicle.
Minister Harris continued, “As Minister for Justice I am committed to building safer, stronger communities, and I am committed to protecting and supporting those who work to keep our communities safe. I am glad to have the support of Government to ensure our laws appropriately reflect those objectives, and look forward to seeing these legislation progress as quickly as possible.”
The Criminal Justice (Miscellanous Provisions) Bill is on the Government Legislation Programme priority list and has now passed all stages in Dáil Eireann. Second Stage in Seanad Éireann is scheduled for 23 May 2023.