Chair shocked by increase in officer assaults

Gwent Police Federation chair Maria Henry says she’s “shocked and sickened” by a rise in the number of attacks on police officers and other emergency service personnel.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has released new figures which show a 29 per cent increase in assaults on emergency services personnel in the four weeks to 30 August compared to the same period in 2019.

The NPCC said: “It is thought the rise may be driven by increases in common assaults on police constables, including suspects spitting on officers while claiming to be infected with Covid-19.”

Now Maria has called for stiffer sentences for people who attack officers.

She said: “I’m shocked to see such a huge increase in the number of attacks on key workers, and the fact it appears to be driven by people trying to weaponise Covid-19 by spitting on our colleagues is sickening.

“This can’t be allowed to become the norm. It is essential that offenders are brought to justice and face the maximum possible sentences.

“Our brave members have been putting themselves in harm’s way all through this pandemic and shouldn’t feel threatened or be attacked just for going to work.

“We need to give them the support and protection they deserve by sending out the message that these attacks are unacceptable.”

The NPCC figures show that crime trends have returned close to pre-lockdown levels. After a 28 per cent reduction at the height of lockdown, police recorded crime is now three per cent lower than in the same period in 2019.

Mental health incidents were up five per cent in this reporting period, the NPCC said, reported rape saw a four per cent rise and domestic abuse incidents increased by seven per cent.

National Federation chair John Apter said: “The recent return to pre-Covid crime levels comes as no surprise, as during lockdown there were fewer people out and therefore less opportunities to commit crime.

“Regrettably, I am not surprised either to see the rise in the number of call outs for mental health incidents. This has been steadily increasing year on year and the police are often seen as the first port of call when people need help.

“My colleagues will continue to do their job to the best of their ability but, as I have said many times before, there is no magic box of extra officers waiting to be opened, and undoubtedly policing will struggle with this increased demand.”