Derbyshire Police Federation

Officer assaults: courts must give out tougher sentences

25 February 2020

With new statistics revealing that those who attack police officers and other emergency service workers are, on average, receiving sentences of just 2.6 months when jailed, the chair of Derbyshire Police Federation has urged the courts to play their part in suitably punishing offenders.

Tony Wetton was responding after the Ministry of Justice released statistics which show the maximum sentence of 12-month imprisonment for attacks on police and members of the other emergency services are used infrequently.

“I am extremely disappointed that the courts are not handing out tougher sentences for these offences,” says Tony, “In recent years, police officers have sadly come to consider being assaulted as part of their job. But that should not be the case. No one should go to work expecting to be assaulted simply for doing their job.

“After a successful Police Federation campaign, we now have a law in place that gives courts the opportunity to jail offenders for up to 12 months for assaults on police officers and other emergency service workers. Sadly, they are not using the powers they already have anywhere often enough.

“Courts need to not only punish those offenders who come before them but also send out a strong message to others that these assaults will not be tolerated. I just don’t think that is happening right now and this must change.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said she would consider doubling the 12-month maximum sentence for assaults on emergency service workers but Tony doesn’t believe this will have any impact if the courts are already failing to use existing sentencing powers.

John Apter, chair of the national Police Federation, has also responded to the new Ministry of Justice statistics and also referred to previously released figures for assaults on emergency service workers.

He explained: “From previous Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) data we know 90 per cent of those attacked are police officers and these figures confirm most people who attack them are still receiving nothing more than a slap on the wrist. The fact nearly 9 out of 10 individuals who are charged under the new act walk free from a court is a disgrace and an insult.”

The new Ministry of Justice figures cover the period from November 2018 when the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 came into effect until September last year.

The statistics compare the rate of court proceedings and outcomes for assault offences in England and Wales. The new act only covers common assault and battery offences, with more serious assaults being charged using separate legislation.

The national Federation chair explained: “The last set of official Government statistics show there were almost 31,000 assaults on police officers in the last year, and we believe from our own anecdotal research that figure represents the tip of the iceberg. These statistics are an indicator of how vast the disparity is between the number of reported assaults, and the number of people actually punished for them.”

A total of 8,647 individuals were prosecuted under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018. In the same period, 3,317 were charged with assault on a constable, while a total of 43,399 individuals faced common assault and battery charges (includes non-police related assaults).

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