Courts urged to impose tougher sentences for officer assaults


PUBLISHED 28 May 2021

IN News

Police Federation leaders are calling on judges and magistrates to impose the toughest possible sentences on offenders who attack officers as new guidelines are published.

Courts in England and Wales are to be given specific sentencing advice on assaults against emergency services personnel under the new guidance which comes into force in July.

Cambridgeshire Police Federation has welcomed the move by the independent Sentencing Council but warned the new guidelines must be used to their full extent against anyone who carries out an assault on its members.

Branch chair Liz Groom said: “This is a significant step forward and we must now urge the courts to follow these guidelines and hand out the toughest sentences available to them so that these offenders are suitably punished and others are deterred from attacking officers in this way.

“We are seeing far too many assaults on officers. The physical injuries we see are shocking but just as devastating is the long-term impact these attacks have on officers’ mental health and wellbeing.”

The revised guidelines were issued by the Sentencing Council after the Police Federation’s Protect the Protectors campaign sparked a change in the law which doubled the maximum sentence for assaults on police officers and other emergency service workers from six to 12 months.

The Government has pledged to increase the maximum sentence from 12 months to two years for assaults on emergency workers through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is currently at the committee stage in Parliament.

The new advice includes factors classed as “high culpability”, such as the “intention to cause fear of serious harm, including disease transmission” in common assault cases, as well as intentional coughing or spitting in both common assault and ABH offences.

Police Federation national chair John Apter said: “During the last few years, we have been highlighting to the Sentencing Council the dangers officers face and our serious concern about some perverse sentences, which has seen people walking from the court after some vicious attacks on our colleagues.

“It’s good to see that the Sentencing Council has taken on board our views about assaults on police, including the vile acts of spitting and weaponising Covid, and these revised guidelines are a step in the right direction.

“What we need to see now is judges making full use of the flexibility the guidelines provide to ensure that the sentence handed down reflects the seriousness and gravity of the crime.

“We will be watching closely to ensure we see a reduction in perverse sentences which result in thugs who attack emergency workers walking free from court with little more than a slap on the wrist.”