Assaults have huge impact on officers, says Fed chair

The chair of Gwent Police Federation says attacks on officers can have a huge impact on their mental and physical health.

Christopher Back said that tough sentences for those who assault frontline workers act as a deterrent and need to be enforced by the criminal justice system.

He said: “Police officers have the right to go to work without the threat of violence. The impact of an assault on officer shouldn’t be underestimated. It can impact officers’ mental and physical health and can take their toll on their family life and colleagues as well.

“Tough sentences, like those we’ve been campaigning for as a Federation, send out the message that if you attack a police officer and are caught and convicted, you can expect to go to prison.

“We need the support of everyone to send out the message it’s unacceptable to assault or attack police officers and frontline workers.”

His comments follow the publication of a report by the charity Transform Justice ‘Protect the protectors? Do criminal sanctions reduce violence against police and NHS staff?’.

The report states it takes a closer, evidence-based look at increased penalties for assaults against emergency workers and demonstrates the ineffectiveness of this approach on any level.

Steve Hartshorn, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, took part in a panel discussion to coincide with the report’s launch which asked: ‘Will harsher sanctions reduce assaults on police and NHS workers?’

Asked of his personal experience of officers being assaulted when on duty, Steve said: “I have been assaulted countless times and, to go back to when I first started as a new officer in 1995, there was an ethos then that it was part of the job.

“It was in the early 2000s I think and, there was a court case where a judge basically reaffirmed that it was part the job to get assaulted but it never felt right because everyone has a right to go to work and to be treated properly. We accept that at times policing can be a contact sport, certainly if you are a frontline officer dealing with the public.

“It’s the minority of the public that cause these assaults on officers and it does leave lasting effects on police officers.”