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Devon & Cornwall Police Federation

New legislation to offer more protection to officers from attacks and enhanced driver protection "long overdue"

9 March 2021

New legislation promising to better protect police officers from public attacks and from prosecution for their driving when they are responding to emergency calls is “long overdue”, Devon and Cornwall Police Federation has said. 

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which was introduced to Parliament this week (9 March), will impose tougher penalties for police assaults and provide enhanced protections for police drivers. 

Sentencing for those who attack police officers will double from 12 months to two years, which Andy Berry, Chair of Devon and Cornwall Police Federation, called a “really positive step”. 

He said: “This sends a message that assaulting an emergency worker is extremely serious. The default should be that if you assault a police officer or paramedic, then you are going to go to prison, and that there isn’t any mitigation. If you choose to assault a police officer, you need to understand that prison is the most probable outcome.” 

Andy said Devon and Cornwall Police had seen and continues to see a “significant hike” in police assaults - and that Covid-19 has seen an increase in spitting and coughing offences. “It has been an appalling use of the pandemic to impress threats on police officers,” he said. 

He added: “This legislation is long overdue and it is to the credit of the Police Federation that it got the two year sentence into the Act. We just now need the sentencing council to amend their guidance and for magistrates to use the full powers given to them.” 

Police drivers will also benefit from the Bill, which will ensure officers are regarded as driving dangerously only if the way they drive falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful constable who has undertaken the prescribed training; or it would be obvious to such a competent and careful constable that driving in that way would be dangerous. Officers are currently judged under the same standards as members of the public. 

Andy added: “The public do not necessarily understand that police officers have exemptions to do certain things - go through red lights with sirens and lights for example. But if in the course of doing that they have an accident, they don’t have any protection by the fact that they have those permissions and training”. 

“There is an expectation placed on police officers that we are going to train you and expect you to drive with haste to incidents to protect the public and save life and limb, and yet if you get into an accident en route, you’re going to be prosecuted as if you were a member of the public.

“So it makes absolute sense that if something does go wrong it will be viewed from the  perspective of a trained police officer. This law will be a real benefit to members and hopefully provide them with the reassurance that they can do the job they need to do without fear of unnecessary prosecution.”