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CPS warned: Use ?full powers? of new laws to protect emergency workers

Federation hopes landmark legislation will change society view that it is 'okay to assault officers'
Published - 13/11/2018 By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle

The police service is reminding communities they should not “underestimate” the impact of attacks on officers as stiffer sentences for certain aggravated offences against emergency workers come into effect today.

And prosecutors and the courts are being urged to make “full use” of their new powers or risk rendering the change in legislation “meaningless”.

The Assault Against Emergency Workers Bill becoming law is being seen as a “significant step forward” by reforming rank-and-file officers whose campaign Protect The Protectors was launched at Parliament in February last year.

In 2017, there were 26,000 assaults on police officers and over 17,000 against NHS staff. Assaults on prison officers are up 70 per cent along with an 18 per cent increase in attacks on firefighters.

Fed chairman John Apter said: "I hope that this legislation will also help to change a culture which has developed within society that it is acceptable to assault an emergency worker.

“Let me be clear, it is not.

“Nobody should be assaulted just because of the uniform they wear or the job they do . . . it is totally unacceptable and there must be consequences for those who commit such crimes."

“This change in law is the right thing for our dedicated emergency workers – it makes clear that attacks against them will not be tolerated and that those who cross the line will be dealt with robustly.

“And although the legislation is now in place it means nothing unless it is used by the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts, so I call on them to make full use of these new powers.

"While we acknowledge that we did not get everything we wanted from this new Act – we feel sentences are still not as strong as they need to be – this is a significant step forward in the right direction and we will continue to make the case for a stronger deterrent, for a wider roll-out of Taser, body-worn video and spit and bite guards and the appropriate levels of staffing.

The combative approach by the federation is supported by West Mercia PCC John Campion.

The police and crime commissioner’s own Behind The Badge has campaigned extensively to reduce assaults on police officers, and other emergency workers, ensuring they get the same support as any other victim of crime, and that communities treat them with the respect they deserve.

The new legislation, which the PCC has backed throughout, makes certain offences aggravated when committed against emergency workers, giving courts the power to impose stronger sentences, doubling the maximum sentence for an assault against an emergency worker from six to 12 months in prison.

Mr Campion warned: “We must never lose sight of the fact that police officers, and all those who do an extraordinary role in protecting us, are ordinary people, with ordinary lives.

“We must never underestimate the impact that assaults can have not only on those who are assaulted but on their loved ones, and those around them.

“My commitment and my drive is to continue to encourage people to see Behind the Badge. This is a landmark step in ensuring the full weight of the law, will support those who are unfortunately assaulted in the course of their duties.”

One of West Mercia’s own officers – PC Lloyd Stone – was assaulted while on duty in Bromsgrove, and has spoken about the effect this had on him and his family.

He tells his story through a video “It had a massive impact on my life. I’ve got a young boy, and I’m separated, so I couldn’t see my boy,” he said.

“It caused a lot of grief, emotionally and that was a massive impact.”

The officer, who spent eight of 10 years in the service with West Midland Police, added: “I massively welcome the change in the law, if it will help us to punish people more, if they feel they want to assault us, because we’re there to help.

“We are human beings, we do the same as everybody else. We wear this uniform,  it doesn’t mean I’m any different.”

The man who assaulted PC Stone was convicted of actual bodily harm and assaulting a police officer. In October 2018, he was sentenced to 120 hours of unpaid work, and ordered to pay £435 in costs and compensation.

The federation’s Prtoect The Protectors campaign was launched in Parliament through a Ten Minute Rule Bill introduced by Halifax MP Holly Lynch.

She had joined West Yorkshire PC Craig Gallant on patrol in the summer of 2016 and had dialled 999 after witnessing the single-crewed officer being surrounded by a hostile crowd.

The General Election brought the Bill to a premature end, but Rhondda MP Chris Bryant, picked up the baton and his Private Members' Bill received cross-party support to become law.

The campaign also benefitted from the backing of the Prisoner Officers’ Association and British Transport Police Federation as partners.

Mr Bryant said today: "The growing tide of attacks on emergency workers is a national scandal.

All too often attackers get away with little more than a slap on the wrist. I hope this new law will help put a stop to that attitude.

“An attack on an emergency worker is an attack on all of us and attackers should face the full force of the law."

Home Secretary Sajid Javid added: "At a time when our brave police officers and staff are working tirelessly to crack down on violence, I find it despicable that some people think it is acceptable to assault emergency service workers.

“This Act ensures judges can come down hard on these cowardly individuals and makes clear that we are committed to protecting those who protect us."

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