Fri, 29 Jun 2018
The second reading of a bill to better protect police and other emergency services from assault is taking place at the House of Lords today (Friday 29 June).
MP Chris Bryant’s Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill proposes to make assault or sexual assault against a blue light worker an aggravating factor punishable by up to 12 months in prison, and is in response to the Protect the Protectors campaign by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), in partnership with the Prison Officers’ Association (POA), the British Transport Police Federation.
The Home Office estimates that there were 24,000 assaults on police officers in 2016/17 in England and Wales. Our own welfare survey results suggests there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon during the same period.
While PFEW is pleased with the progress of the bill, we believe it can be strengthened by including spitting as a specific assault and increasing the maximum tariff to 24 months. Our concern is also that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the courts are failing to provide an effective deterrent by downgrading charges and awarding derisory sentences.
Four Police Federation chairs, Ken Marsh (Metropolitan), Steve Taylor (Essex), Tiff Lynch (Leicestershire) and Nick Smart (West Yorkshire) held meetings with members of the Lords at Parliament on Thursday to secure their support for the bill and press the case for strengthening it.
Meetings were held with Liberal Democrat peers Lord Paddick and Lord Dholakia and Labour Home Affairs spokesmen Lord Kennedy and Lord Rosser, and with Lord Willy Bach, Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicestershire. Further engagement is taking place today. Ken Marsh made the point that there is “too much bartering” by the CPS and that suspects should be charged with the correct offences. The Chairs gave examples of assaults on members of their own forces including a Leicestershire officer whose hair was pulled out by an offender who served only five days and an incident in Essex where an officer suffered a double fractured arm and their attacker was fined just £20.
Speaking afterwards, Steve Taylor said: “We had useful conversations with a diverse group of Lords who got the points we were making and helped identify some areas we can work on and were generally supportive of our drive to better Protect the Protectors.”
Tiff Lynch added: “We are thankful for their time in meeting with us and discussing the amendments that we feel are necessary for our members to feel that they are valued by the public and the government.”
Nick Smart said: “A bill going through Parliament proposes to increase the sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years – we don’t think 24 months is unreasonable for somebody who assaults a police officer. There is support in both chambers of parliament for this campaign so we have to ask why the government is trying to water down the sentencing side of the bill and remove spitting as an aggravating factor.”
Update: The bill successfully had its second reading and is expected to proceed to Committee Stage in the Lords within two weeks.
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