90 days from today is Wed, 30 December 2020
15 January 2020
The courts must use their full sentencing powers to punish those who assault police officers and also deter others, says the chair of West Midlands Police Federation.
Jon Nott spoke out after new figures from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) revealed 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.
“I find it shocking that each and every day 50 of the very people who seek to help others in their time of need find themselves subjected to violence simply for doing their job,” says Jon.
“These new figures show that in 90 per cent of these cases the victims were police officers. An attack on a police officer is an attack on society itself and therefore anyone convicted of these assaults should feel the full weight of the law so that they are punished for their crime but also to serve as a deterrent to others.
“On a daily basis here in the West Midlands, we are hearing of officers who are being assaulted at work. Just two days into this year, we saw a woman jailed after biting one of our officers and assaulting another in an incident in the opening minutes of 2020.
“Our officers suffer physical injuries in these attacks that take them away from their duties but there is also a psychological impact and many can find it difficult to return to serving their communities through fear of being assaulted again.
“But, all too often, I am hearing officers saying it’s just part of the job but it’s not and nor should it ever be accepted. We need the courts to use the legislation and send a clear message that an assault on a police officer or other emergency services worker will not be tolerated.”
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 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 while doing their job.