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13 July 2018
Members of the Police Federation’s Parliamentary Working Group (PWG) were in the House of Lords at the end of last month for the second reading of the assaults bill.
MP Chris Bryant’s Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill proposes to make assault or sexual assault against a blue light worker an aggravating factor punishable by up to 12 months in prison and has now progressed to the Committee Stage.
While the Federation is pleased with the progress of the bill, it wants it to be strengthened by including spitting as a specific assault and increasing the maximum tariff to 24 months. It is also concerned the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts are failing to provide an effective deterrent by downgrading charges and awarding derisory sentences.
PWG members Tiff Lynch, Ken Marsh, Nick Smart and Steve Taylor, chairs of Leicestershire, the Metropolitan, West Yorkshire and Essex Police Federations respectively, met members of the Lords to urge them to support the bill and back their calls to strengthen its provisions.
Nick explained afterwards: “A bill going through Parliament proposes to increase the sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years – we don’t think 24 months is unreasonable for somebody who assaults a police officer.
“There is support in both chambers of Parliament for this campaign so we have to ask why the Government is trying to water down the sentencing side of the bill and remove spitting as an aggravating factor.”
Steve said: “We had useful conversations with a diverse group of Lords who got the points we were making and helped identify some areas we can work on and were generally supportive of our drive to better Protect the Protectors.”
And Tiff added: “We are thankful for their time in meeting with us and discussing the amendments that we feel are necessary for our members to feel that they are valued by the public and the Government.”
Meetings were held with Liberal Democrat peers Lord Paddick and Lord Dholakia, Labour Home Affairs spokespeople Lord Kennedy and Lord Rosser, and Lord Willy Bach, Leicestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner.
The bill was put forward by Mr Bryant in response to the Protect the Protectors campaign on assaults by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), in partnership with the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) and the British Transport Police Federation.
The Home Office estimates there were 24,000 assaults on police officers in 2016/17 in England and Wales. But the Federation’s welfare survey results suggest there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon during the same period.