Section 119(4) Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 came in to force today; as a result the offence in section 119 became operational (see section 153(5) of the Act for commencement provisions). Note however that at the present time the offence is not applicable to Welsh NHS premises.
Section 119 creates a new offence of causing a nuisance or disturbance to NHS staff on NHS premises. It addresses behaviour which disrupts NHS staff in the performance of their duties and affects the delivery of healthcare. Penalty = level 3 fine.
Subsection (1) sets out the required elements of the offence. In order to commit the offence, a person must, without reasonable excuse, cause a nuisance or disturbance to an NHS staff member whilst on NHS premises.
A nuisance or disturbance can include any form of non-physical behaviour which breaches the peace, such as verbal aggression or intimidating gestures towards NHS staff. A person will not commit the offence if he or she has a reasonable excuse for causing the nuisance or disturbance or refusing to leave the premises. Behaviour consequential to the receipt of upsetting news or bereavement may, for example, constitute a reasonable excuse. A nuisance or disturbance must be caused to an NHS staff member, rather than any other person. At the time the nuisance or disturbance is caused, the NHS staff member must either be working at the premises or be there for some other purpose relating to his work, such as travelling to work, walking between buildings or taking a break. The nuisance or disturbance must be caused on NHS premises.
If the conditions in subsection (1)(a) are satisfied, the person may be asked to leave the premises by a police constable or NHS staff member. If the person refuses to leave without reasonable excuse, then the person may commit the offence. A reasonable excuse for not leaving the premises may, for example, include a situation where a dependent is on the premises concerned and the person causing a nuisance or disturbance has a responsibility to remain on the premises with this dependent.
Subsection (1)(c) provides that a person who is on the premises for the purpose of obtaining medical advice, treatment or care will not be able to commit the offence. Patients and those attending for consultations, to collect medication or test results or convalescing after treatment will not be able to commit the offence.
Subsection (3) sets out the circumstances in which a person will not be regarded as legitimately on the premises for medical purposes. It provides that a person that has received medical advice, treatment or care, or who is seeking medical advice, treatment or care which he or she has been refused less than 8 hours before is not on the premises for the purpose of obtaining medical advice, treatment or care and is capable of committing the offence.
Subsection (4) outlines the scope of the offence by defining the terms "NHS premises", "NHS staff member" and other related terms. NHS premises refers to both English and Welsh NHS premises. "English NHS premises" refers to any hospital owned or managed by an English NHS Trust, Primary Care Trust or NHS Foundation Trust and includes buildings, other structures and vehicles located on hospital grounds. "Welsh NHS premises" refers to any hospital owned or managed by a Welsh NHS Trust or Local Health Board and includes buildings, other structures and vehicles located on hospital grounds. "Vehicles" may include, for example, ambulances or air ambulances but do not fall within the definition of "NHS premises" when they are outside hospital grounds. The definition of an NHS staff member includes staff who are not directly employed by, but work for, the relevant English or Welsh NHS body. These could include agency workers, contractors, students or volunteers.
Any hairy-arsed old custody sergeant could find appropriate charges to deal with this kind of behaviour. Why has Parliament wasted time and money enacting this rubbish? Surely it's not aimed at tomorrow's tabloid headlines?
I have nothing to add - 2009 deserves a better start then this.