The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Michael McDowell, T.D., today said that provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which came into force on 1 August, have greatly strengthened the legal protection for emergency workers who are assaulted, threatened or obstructed. 

Minister McDowell said, "The special demands of acting in an emergency situation necessitate explicit protection in law for this essential group of workers and those assisting them and it is only right that such people who serve the State so courageously are afforded protection by the State. 

There is now in law a robust and comprehensive range of measures available to An Garda Síochána and the judiciary for the prosecution and sentencing of persons who assault, threaten or obstruct emergency workers."


New Law

Section 185 of the Criminal Justice Act amends section 19 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994. Section 19 had provided for specific offences relating to assaulting or obstructing a peace officer, defined as a member of the Garda Síochána or the Defence Forces or prison officers acting in the execution of their duty.

Section 185 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 expands the definition of 'peace officers' to include members of the fire brigade and ambulance personnel.  In addition the Act creates 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 have also been increased.  The maximum penalty for assault or threats to commit assault is a fine and/or 7 years imprisonment. The maximum penalty in relation to wilful obstruction or impeding health service workers is a fine of 2,500 Euro and/or 6 months imprisonment.


Serious Assaults against Emergency Workers

In the case of a serious assault causing harm against emergency workers an offender can, in addition, be prosecuted under the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 and subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. 


13 August 2006