COTSWOLD councillors have voiced their support for a proposed new law to better protect emergency workers, after figures revealed 163 attacks on Gloucestershire police officers and 200 attacks on NHS workers were reported last year.

The analysis comes from the office of former shadow leader of the House of Commons Chris Bryant MP ahead of a debate in Parliament this week regarding his Private Member’s Bill.

The new law would mean tougher sentences for people who commit a variety of offences against emergency workers, including the creation of a new aggravated offence.

Cllr Ray Brassington, ward member for Cirencester Four Acres on Cotswold District Council (CDC), is also one of 16 councillors and two independents on the Gloucestershire Police and Crime panel.

He said: “I fully support this bill and hope it is passed into law.

“Assaults against anyone are unacceptable but it is particularly horrific if it’s against an emergency worker who is attempting to help someone or undertake their duty on our behalf.

“Emergency workers deserve our full support after all they may save your life one day,” he added.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, who represents Northleach and Bourton-on-the-Water on Gloucestershire Country Council called the figures "very disturbing".

"I've heard of assaults on the emergency services, the people who are there to protect us, but seeing these stats is something different.

"Whilst they show that Gloucestershire has less of a problem than some big cities, they still show that there is a real issue which has to be recognised and tackled."

Cllr Hodgkinson went on to say: “I can’t understand why anyone in their right mind would attack NHS workers when they work so hard to keep us well.

"I was taken ill in Birmingham this summer and I have nothing but praise for the efficient and friendly help I received from the paramedics and doctors.

"They deserve our admiration not physical harm.

“And we know that the police are facing huge pressures with lack of staff. They are stretched so thinly. Adding assaults to their day-to-day challenges underlines to me how tough the work is.”

Cirencester men Garry May, 33, and Jack Ayres, 21, are amongst the long list of offenders to have been convicted following attacks on police officers in recent months.

Ayres, of Burge Court, was barred from entering Cirencester town centre for three years and jailed for 28 months in July after going berserk in a police custody suite and assaulting two officers.

May, of Upper Churnside, admitted threatening behaviour, assaulting a police constable and possessing two Stanley Knife blades, on North Way in Cirencester in June – resulting in a 12-week prison sentence suspended for one year.

However, of the 7,500 assaults recorded in the South West in 2016, only around three per cent resulted in any type of criminal sanction under current laws.

Mr Bryant said: “An attack on an emergency worker is an attack on all of us.

“I hope this bill will signal a zero-tolerance attitude from everyone, the CPS, the courts and the public to these scandalous assaults.

“These shocking figures show just why this new law is needed to protect our protectors.

“The rate of prosecutions for assaults on NHS workers is pitiful, and makes clear just why we need the stronger sentencing this bill will provide.

“The government need to support this bill to give tougher penalties for assaulting emergency workers and to ensure we send the message in the strongest terms that it will no longer be tolerated.”

A spokeswoman for Gloucestershire Police said: “The number of assaults on police officers is disappointing and it shows the dangers and challenging circumstances which officers face in protecting the public.

“We try to make sure support measures are in place for our officers and assaulting a police officer is a serious offence which is unacceptable.”

A spokesman for Gloucestershire Hospitals said: “Our staff are encouraged to report all episodes, no matter how minor the incident. We treat violence and aggression seriously at all times and we have clear processes and extensive training in place to prevent such incidents."

He went on to say that "the vast majority of these episodes are not intentional acts but arise as a consequence of illness that can lead to confusion and challenging behaviour".