10 January 2020
The chair of Derbyshire Police Federation has backed calls for courts to use their full sentencing powers when dealing with people who have assaulted police officers and other emergency service workers.
Tony Wetton made the comments after newly-released Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) statistics show it had prosecuted more than 50 assaults a day in the first year since a new law came into effect making it a specific offence to attack an emergency services worker.
“Assaults on police officers and other emergency service workers are continuing to rise,” said Tony, “During 2019, there were some truly horrific attacks on officers so we need to see courts ensuring that they hand down the toughest sentences possible not just to punish those found guilty of these attacks but also to act as a deterrent to others.
“The new CPS figures show that in 90 per cent of cases the victims of the prosecuted assaults were police officers. These incidents are not just an assault on individual officers they are an attack on society as a whole. Police officers sign up to serve their communities, to fight crime, to protect the vulnerable and to keep order. While their role can put them in situations where emotions are heightened, they should not be subjected to the sustained and violent attacks that we are hearing about time and time again.
“When an officer is assaulted, they can sustain a physical injury that then takes them away from their work, putting pressure on their colleagues and also affecting the service the Force can provide to the public. But these assaults also have a psychological effect on officers, making it difficult for them to return to their job.
“Courts must use the legislation available to them to help stem the increase in assaults on police and other emergency service workers.”
Between November 2018 and November last year, almost 20,000 offences were charged under the new 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 per cent.
In addition to publishing the statistics for the first year under the new act, the CPS has launched a new set of guidelines reminding magistrates to use their full sentencing powers and also stating that victims’ views should be taken into account when pleas to other offences are accepted or cases discontinued.
The new guidance aims to ensure prosecutors seek the maximum sentence in court and play any body-worn video footage and underlines the requirement to treat assaults committed on bail or licence as an aggravating factor.
National Federation chair John Apter has welcomed the CPS stance, saying: “It is good to see the CPS recognising that the current system is not working and issuing new guidelines for prosecutors.
“Now I urge magistrates to do the right thing and heed any advice passed down to them; and to use their full sentencing powers so the law provides the deterrent and punitive effect it was intended to.”
At the Federation’s centenary celebration event in London in November, Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would double the maximum sentence under the new act from 12 months to two years and John has said he will be discussing officer assaults when he meets her in the coming weeks.
The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act followed the Federation’s ‘Protect the Protectors’ campaign which highlighted the violence emergency service workers face doing their job.