THERE need to be stronger sentences for those who attack police officers, the Chairman of the Hampshire Police Federation has said.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPO) has prosecuted more than 50 assaults a day in the past year since attacks on emergency workers became a specific offence. Nine out of 10 of these assaults were on police officers.
The Assaults On Emergency Workers (Offences) Act has now been updated in several areas, including ensuring that prosecutors seek the maximum sentence in court, and playing any body-worn footage to the judge. The CPO has called on magistrates, judges and prosecutors to heed these new guidelines.
Chairman Alex Charge said: “We get a lot of feedback from officers to say that the sentences that are handed out are not enough. It makes officers feel valueless. That is simply not acceptable. All the work that’s been done around Protect the Protectors, around the Assaults On Emergency Workers Act, and the final piece of the puzzle is that people need to be sentenced as a deterrent.
“I struggle to understand why we don’t have that final piece of the puzzle. We’ve got seven-point plans. We’ve got supporting statements from Chief Officers. Police officers are giving victim impact statements to say this is how it feels to be assaulted for the seventh time when I’m just trying to help people.”
Alex said it felt like police were being failed by the court system. He said: “I’m not saying everybody should go to prison. There might be mitigating factors – we understand that sometimes people do things they wouldn’t normally do because of certain circumstances. But, actually, if the starting position was prison and then we stepped back from that, it would be a really clear message to the public that it’s wrong to assault police officers. But we don’t seem to have that at the moment. It’s almost like you have to prove that they should go to prison, and that’s just not good enough.”
He said the courts needed to send a “short, sharp message to criminals”. He compared the situation to an assault case in football: “Jack Grealish was on the pitch, someone runs on and hits him, and the guy gets sentenced to prison pretty much straight away. Have we had a spate of people running on the pitch and assaulting people? No we haven’t, because it’s not acceptable and if you do it, you’ll go to prison. Whereas if you assault cops it seems like you’ve got a good chance that you’ll just get away with a nothing sentence. “