MEASURES offering greater legal protection for emergency services have been welcomed in West Mercia after nearly 600 assaults against police in the last year.

John Campion, police and crime commissioner for the region, has hailed the Assaults on Emergency Workers Bill, which is expected to become law in the autumn after receiving government support.

It will make certain offences aggravated when committed against emergency workers, giving courts the power to impose stronger sentences - and will also mean officers will be better protected from health risks as offenders who commit offences such as spitting will commit a further offence if they refuse to provide a sample for testing.

Home Office Figures show 579 assaults against police in West Mercia during 2017-18, nearly 200 of which caused injury.

Mr Campion said: “This is a mammoth step and fantastic news for all emergency workers. I am pleased to see the government taking this seriously by passing this legislation which will protect police officers and other emergency workers and act as a deterrent for those who would commit these offences.

"We mustn’t forget that behind the badge, police officers and other emergency workers are ordinary people doing extraordinary jobs. Our communities have an important role to play in ensuring this is recognised and we treat emergency workers with the respect they deserve. I look forward to seeing the positive impact the passing of this bill will have.”

Assistant Chief Constable Geoff Wessell said: "Our men and women are out in our communities day and night, often dealing with very difficult and challenging situations and putting themselves in harm’s way. They certainly do not deserve to be subject to abuse, threats or assaults and I very much welcome the additional protection that this new bill gives them.

"I can assure them, and anyone who feels it acceptable to behave in this manner towards our officers, that all such incidents are taken extremely seriously and are fully investigated so that appropriate action can be taken."

Sarah Cooper, chairman of the Police Federation, said: “This represents a much needed boost to emergency workers who are subjected to horrific assaults in the line of duty while protecting the public. All too often those who assault emergency workers have faced little or no consequence for their actions. It is vital that those involved in the criminal justice system recognise that an assault of this nature should be treated as the serious offence it is, and that the available legislation is used to its maximum effect.

"Police officers risk so much every day and it is imperative that they feel supported when the worst happens.”