Woefully lenient’ sentences to blame for increase in officer assaults

“Woefully lenient” court sentences are being blamed for a sharp rise in assaults on police officers in West Mercia during the lockdown.

Aug 11, 2020
By Paul Jacques
West Mercia PCC John Campion

West Mercia Police Federation said officers were being “let down by a system that does not treat these cases seriously enough”.

Assaults against police officers in West Mercia are at a five-year high. In 2018/19, 538 frontline officers were assaulted across West Mercia, with the figure for 2019/20 rising to 659. In the first three months of this year, one in 15 police officers were assaulted West Mercia police and crime commissioner (PCC) John Campion said the figures “make very worrying reading”.

In Shropshire, assaults on West Mercia Police officers have jumped by 45 per cent during the lockdown period despite an overall reduction in total recorded crime.

From April to June 2020, officers were assaulted on 16 occasions compared with 11 between January and March 2020.

And in Herefordshire, assaults rose by 43 per cent, with officers assaulted on 30 occasions from April to June compared with 21 during the previous three months.

The figures were highlighted as part of Mr Campion’s ‘Behind the Badge” campaign that aims to raise awareness of officer assaults.

Sarah Cooper, chair of West Mercia Police Federation, said: “It can never be accepted that any assault on an officer bravely serving the public is ‘just part of the job’. It is only right that individuals who carry out these abhorrent crimes are brought to justice.”

“Unfortunately, all too often, the feedback I am getting is that charging decisions and sentences at court are woefully lenient. In my view a strong message needs to be sent out through the criminal justice system that offences against our officers will not be tolerated.

“Currently, officers are often left feeling unsupported and let down by a system that does not treat these cases seriously enough. An offence against any emergency worker is an offence against society and cannot be condoned.

“The increase in the number of assaults on officers is incredibly concerning and I am keen to work alongside the PCC and the force in addressing this issue.

West Mercia Police Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Jones said they will be exploring if additional training or different equipment could help reduce the number of assaults.

“Every day our officers put themselves in harm’s way to protect others and keep our communities safe, so assaults on them and all emergency workers are appalling, not only during the response to Covid-19 but at any time,” she said.

“I have no doubt that the vast majority of people in our communities will be as equally horrified by this increase as we are and agree that anyone that intentionally harms a public service work should be brought to justice.

“The wellbeing of all those that work for and volunteer for us is paramount. We take our responsibility to look after them incredibly seriously and we have commissioned a review of our officer safety training and PPE (personal protective equipment) provision to explore if there are new options available to us to try and reduce assaults either through additional training or different equipment.

“We will continue to work with Mr Campion and the Police Federation to ensure that appropriate support services are in place for them and their families.”

Mr Campion is a strong supporter of proposals for tougher sentencing under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act, which would double the maximum sentence from 12 months to two years.

“I have been committed to raising awareness of assaults on frontline workers, and making sure that the right support is in place for officers that have been victims of crime,” said Mr Campion.

“The statistics have reinforced my support for tougher sentencing for the minority that assault frontline workers, and to send a clear message that this behaviour won’t be tolerated.

”Assaults have far reaching effects on officers, their families, friends and colleagues, which cannot be under-estimated. I will do everything I can to support action to bring the perpetrators of this type of crime to justice.”

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