Proposed new legislation which will provide better welfare and legal safeguards for officers has been welcomed by Cambridgeshire Police Federation chair Liz Groom.
The new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – formerly the Police Powers and Protections Bill – includes a Police Covenant which introduces new measures to support officers, police staff and their families and follows extensive campaigning by the Federation.
“We welcome the establishment of a Police Covenant and other measures in this bill,” said Liz, “The Federation has long been campaigning for officers to be supported and protected in their line of duty, and a Police Covenant will recognise the unique role we have in society.
“In the spirit of the proposed new covenant the Government could take the very real step of supporting and protecting my colleagues by giving them some priority in the continued roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine.”
Alongside the establishment of the covenant, the bill, unveiled in Parliament yesterday, legislates to double the maximum sentences for those convicted of assaulting emergency workers in England and Wales to two years – something the Federation has been campaigning for.
The new bill allows Special Constables to formally join the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW). This follows years of Federation campaigning and regular discussions with the Home Office, Association of Special Constabulary Officers (ASCO), the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) over the issue.
It also gives better protection to police officers involved in driving incidents, with the introduction of a new test to assess their driving standards. The test will see officers judged against the standard against a ‘competent and careful peer’ with the same training, rather than with a member of the public.
Liz said: “As a Federation, we’ve been campaigning on many of the issues that are included in this bill. I’m proud of the work we’ve been doing and we hope that once this bill becomes law it will make a real difference.”
The measures were also welcomed by national Federation chair John Apter.
He said: “This bill contains a number of important changes we have been campaigning for over many years to give greater protection to police officers, and recognise the unpredictable, dangerous and demanding job they do.
“This is the first step to bring these changes into law; we must grab this opportunity and ensure the bill brings about a positive, meaningful and tangible difference for our colleagues.
“Our Protect the Protectors’ campaign brought about the original Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 which saw the maximum penalty for assaulting an emergency worker increase from six to 12 months. It is absolutely the right decision to see the maximum sentence being doubled, as the original tariff has proved completely ineffective. However, this increase in sentencing will mean nothing unless the sentencing guidelines are updated and made fit for purpose.
“This bill also means that Special Constables will now get the same legal protection and support as regular officers as members of the Police Federation. As a former Special myself, this is something I have been very passionate about. This is only right, Specials carry a warrant card and carry the same risk as regular officers, I’m proud that the Federation is opening its doors to them as members.
“For almost a decade, the Federation has been campaigning to bring about a positive change in the law to better protect police drivers. This new test will ensure my colleagues are more fairly treated in the eyes of the law. This change is much needed and long overdue.”