Assaults on officers: tough sentences must be used

Assaults on police officers should be punished with the strongest possible sentences under new guidelines which come into force in July, according to the chair of Gwent Police Federation.

Steve Thorpe said judges and magistrates must use the revised sentencing guidance to make sure offenders convicted of carrying out attacks on police officers and other emergency services personnel received the  maximum sentences available.

Steve was speaking after the independent Sentencing Council published its updated advice which comes into force in July.

He said: “We are now relying on judges and magistrates using the new guidelines to their full extent to make sure anyone who assaults a police officer or any of our blue light colleagues receives the maximum tariff sentences available.

“Those who assault emergency service workers must expect to receive a tough sentence and officers should know that those who attack them will be suitably punished.

The revised guidelines were issued by the Sentencing Council as a direct result of the Police Federation’s Protect the Protectors campaign which triggered a change in law to double 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.”