POLICE officers have reacted with fury after a man who put a colleague in hospital by repeatedly striking him over the head with a police baton walked away from court with a suspended prison sentence.
Matthew Wagstaff admitted assaulting a Hampshire Police officer with a police baton in January but at Portsmouth Crown Court on Friday was handed an 18-month suspended prison sentence for the crime.
The injured officer sustained a large lump and cut to his forehead, a cut and lump to the back of his head, a cut to his left hand, and a lump and cut to his left shin during the incident.
Zoe Wakefield, Chair of Hampshire Police Federation, said colleagues were livid at the weak sentence handed down for the assault and that it made a mockery of promises to protect the protectors.
She said: “For the judge to give a suspended sentence in this case is completely unacceptable. This tells criminals that you can strike a police officer on the head, more than once, with a metal stick and not go to prison.
“It’s pure luck that the officer’s injuries are not more serious. We are supporting colleagues as best we can, but we now need the judiciary to support us and provide an appropriate punishment and appropriate deterrent for such awful crimes.”
On January 30, police were making enquiries into drug offences in Lees Lane, Gosport when they spotted Wagstaff and approached him.
The 31-year-ran run off, hopping over garden fences in Pelham Road before officers caught up with him.
Wagstaff then grabbed a police baton out of one of the officer’s hands before repeatedly striking another officer over the head with it.
Wagstaff was arrested and charged after the incident.
Appearing at Portsmouth Crown Court in March, Wagstaff, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm, common assault of an emergency worker, and possession of an offensive weapon.
Hampshire Constabulary is considering appealing the sentence.
Insp Matt Wake said: “Assaults against our people will never be tolerated. It is not ‘simply part of the job’ and we will always take these extremely seriously.
“This was a violent attack on one of our officers, who needed treatment in hospital as a result. Fortunately he has recovered well and is back on duty, but the outcome could have been far more severe.”