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Penalties for assault on public officials increased The rate of assault on public officials has increased over the years, prompting Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi to table a private member's bill calling for a harshening of penalties in the law. Finding full cooperation from the government's side, the bill was discussed and approved in parliament and came into force this week. The amendments to the Criminal Act stipulate both an increase in the minimum and maximum jail term and fines imposed. The fines are obligatory. Six major amendments were made, focusing on violence and threats against public officers, threatening a judge, the Attorney General or a magistrate or causing them harm, vilification, threats or bodily harm against public officers, assault or resistance and aggravating circumstance. In some cases, the minimum prison sentence doubled and fines could go as high as €20,000. Violence and threats against public officers have seen penalties increasing to a minimum of €4,000 up to €10,000 and a minimum prison sentence of a year up to five years. Addressing the press at the President's Palace in Valletta, Jason Azzopardi said that the number of persons found guilty for attacking public officers increased from 117 in 2096 to 208 in 2011. Attack on public officials is not restricted to only members of the disciplined corps but also to anyone who is employed by the state, including doctors, nurses, teachers, secretaries and so forth. According to information tabled in parliament, there were 402 persons who between 2009 and September 2013 were arraigned for attacking members of the police force. "It was of satisfaction for the Opposition to see an increase in the protection of public officials. It is unacceptable that a person is attacked for carrying out their duty," he said, citing a number of cases where teachers were assaulted. Azzopardi also expressed satisfaction at the cooperation found with the government.