Magistrates, judges and prosecutors must pay attention to new Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidelines which should see tougher sentences given to those who attack police and other emergency service workers, says Liz Groom, chair of Cambridgeshire Police Federation.
Liz was commenting after the CPS published statistics for the first year of prosecutions under a new law making it a specific offence to assault an emergency services worker revealing it had prosecuted 50 assaults a day, with victims in nine out of 10 cases being police officers.
“These figures go to show the extent of the violence being directed at emergency service workers as they go about their jobs trying to help others and serve their communities,” says Liz.
“While we welcomed the new legislation, which followed a nationwide campaign by the Police Federation, we now need to ensure that the courts use the sentencing powers they have at their disposal not just to punish those who think it’s OK to attack a police officer, a paramedic or ambulance personnel but also to act as a deterrent to others.
“Assaults on police officers are continuing to rise with some truly horrific incidents in the last year. We have to see more action to stem this increase in attacks and protect those who protect others.”
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 first year statistics, 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.