90 days from today is Mon, 25 May 2020

Avon & Somerset Police Federation

New figures reveal violent reality for emergency service workers

9 January 2020

Magistrates, judges and prosecutors need to pay attention to new guidelines which should see harsher sentences handed down to those who attack emergency service workers, the Police Federation urges following the release of new prosecution data from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

On Tuesday this week (7 January), first-of-a-kind stats from the CPS revealed it has prosecuted more than 50 assaults a day in the first year of legislation making attacks on emergency workers a specific offence. Research shows a shocking nine out of 10 of these cases, the victims were police officers.

Between November 2018 and 2019, almost 20,000 offences were charged under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act – three-quarters of which were assault by beating. The first cases to go through the courts also show a conviction rate of 90%.

As well as publishing this data, the CPS has launched a set of new guidelines, prompting prosecutors to remind magistrates to use their full sentencing powers after serious concerns were flagged to the CPS by various policing figures in the wake of spate of high-profile assaults on officers.

Responding to the launch, National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales John Apter said: “In recent months there have been some shocking attacks on our colleagues which have rightly hit the headlines, this comes as the overall assault figures continue to rise year on year.

“These attacks show a shocking lack of respect towards our emergency service workers, the hard-working men and women who serve and protect the public. It is completely unacceptable, and an attack should never be considered ‘part of the job’.

The introduction of the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act came following PFEW’s “Protect the Protectors” campaign which highlighted the violence and assaults emergency service workers face doing their job.

The Act allows for a maximum sentence of 12 months, however the Federation continues to lobby for this to be increased – something the Home Secretary has given her backing to.

Mr Apter continued: “I am glad to see that a majority of offenders are being convicted, however there is no detail of the sentences they were given, and we await with interest the Ministry of Justice’s data on that element.

Avon and Somerset Police Federation Chair, Andy Roebuck, also commented on the release of the new data. “This is an important strand of the Police Federations’ work in reducing assaults on police officers. The recent increases in assaults on Avon and Somerset Police Officers and staff is unprecedented. We have always been determined in preventing assaults against staff and we have worked with the force on a number of different initiatives. The uplift in Taser is important, but I always felt that the deterrent would be assisted with a robust and determined criminal justice system. To assist this preventative work we also initiated ‘de-escalation training’, which provides our officers with additional training and awareness. This is a national first.”

Mr Roebuck continued, “I have held meetings with our Chief Officers and the CPS, developing an increased awareness and need. Avon and Somerset Police Federation have also initiated the national piloting of the digital recording of Police Officer Victim Personal Statements. This new work has been implemented in partnership with Avon and Somerset Police. It is important for the courts, whether the Bench or Jury, to understand the real impact such assaults have on the officers and their families. All of this work is being led by the Federation in preventing offences and increasing the safety of Police Officers and staff.”

Measures in the updated guidance also include:

  • Ensuring that prosecutors seek the maximum sentence in court, including playing any body-worn footage to the judge;
  • Remind prosecutors to charge assaults on emergency workers where the Code Test is met, even where more serious offences have been committed, so the conduct is reflected on the defendant’s criminal record;
  • Underlining the requirement to treat assaults committed on bail or licence as an aggravating feature

To read more on what National Chair, John Apter, had to say, please click here.