Dáil Éireann - Volume 623 - 06 July, 2006
Written Answers. - Proposed Legislation.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh
 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when legislation will be brought in regarding the categorisation of attacks on emergency personnel, an increase in penalties for people convicted of attacks on emergency personnel, and plans for the implementation of such legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27582/06]
Mr. McDowell Mr. McDowell
Mr. McDowell: As the Deputy will be aware the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 which has been passed by both Houses makes specific provisions in relation to attacks on emergency workers. Section 185 of the Bill amends section 19 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 in order to apply the existing offence of assaulting or obstructing a peace officer (or any person assisting them) to other emergency workers. Section 185 of the Criminal Justice Bill expands the current definition of ‘peace officer’ which is a member of the Garda Síochána or the Defence Forces or prison officers acting in the execution of their duty, to include members of the fire brigade and ambulance personnel in order to put them on the same footing as, for example, the Gardaí and give them the same protection.
In addition the Bill further amends section 19 in order to create specific offences of threatening, assaulting, resisting, wilfully obstructing or impeding doctors, dentists, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, other health service workers and any persons assisting them in or at a hospital.
The penalties in relation to an offence under section 19 of the 1994 Act are also being increased. The maximum penalty on indictment for assault or threats to commit assault will be a fine and/or 7 years imprisonment, up from 5 years. The penalty on summary conviction will be a fine of up to €5,000 (currently £1,000) and/or 12 months imprisonment. With regard to the offence of wilful obstruction or impeding health service workers the maximum penalty on summary conviction will be a fine of €2,500 (currently £500) and/or 6 months imprisonment.
Although the law already provides for a range of assault type offences, for example, under the Non-fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997, I believe the special demands of acting in an emergency situation necessitate explicit statutory protection for this essential group of workers and those assisting them. That is why I brought forward my proposals to extend the existing offences relating to assaulting or obstructing peace officers to other workers providing emergency services. I am pleased that the Houses have agreed my proposals. I intend to commence these provisions without delay once the Bill has been signed by the President.
Dáil Éireann 623 Written Answers. Proposed Legislation.