MPs debate tougher sentencing for those who assault police

03 November 2016

PFEW Vice-Chair Calum Macleod at Parliament with MPs Lyn Brown and Holly Lynch

PFEW Vice-Chair Calum Macleod with MPs Lyn Brown and Holly Lynch

Our campaign to change the law so that those who assault police officers receive tougher sentences has taken an important step forward.

MPs held a three hour debate in Parliament on police officer safety, on Wednesday 2 November, which resolved that assaults on a police officer are 'unacceptable' and welcomed the work of the Independent Sentencing Council in producing guidelines that recognise the seriousness of attacks on the emergency services. There was also acceptance of the Federation's call for the numbers of assaults to be accurately recorded in order to appreciate the scale of the problem. Our research suggests that an officer is assaulted every 22 minutes in England and Wales - a staggering and unacceptable 23,394 incidents in England and Wales last year. Officer assaults are vastly under-reported and it is a bigger problem than current figures demonstrate.

Vice Chair of the PFEW, Calum Macleod, along with national rep Mick Hume, West Yorkshire Fed Chair Nick Smart and Hampshire Fed Chair John Apter met with a large number of Labour and Conservative MPs ahead of the debate.

Calum said: 'Assaulting a police office should never been seen as acceptable or "part of the job". Today was an important step in raising awareness among MPs and the public of the risks that police officers face on a daily basis - it was also about putting in place measures to ensure that those who assault police officers are held to account by the courts and that sentences reflect those crimes - progress is, and will continue to be made.'

The PFEW delegation was welcomed by Holly Lynch, MP for Halifax, who saw first hand the dangers officers face when she accompanied PC Craig Gallant on a shift in West Yorkshire on 5 August and dialed 999 when the single crewed office was confronted by a crowd and Holly feared for his safety.

Speaking at the debate, she said: 'Police officers who are assaulted deserve the full backing of the justice system. Since my shift with West Yorkshire police, I have been made aware of at least five more assaults on officers in my constituency in the days that followed. What shocked me, and what thoroughly depresses police officers, is that sentences handed down to offenders for assaulting the police often fail to reflect the seriousness of the crime or, more crucially, serve as a deterrent. We make the laws in here, but we ask the police to uphold and enforce them out there. To assault a police officer is to show a complete disregard for law and order, for our shared values and for democracy itself, and that must be reflected in sentencing, particularly for repeat offenders.'

MP Jessica Morden told the Commons about a woman who is married to a police officer who contacted her to describe how the injuries her husband sustains in the course of his work affect the family. To stop their children worrying, the couple lie about how he sustains his injuries. She quoted the woman saying: 'According to my children he is the clumsiest dad ever, as we have had to tell them "dad fell over a bin chasing someone," "dad walked into a cupboard door in the station," "dad caught himself on the police car door." I am tired of seeing my husband come home injured and having to lie to my children about how he sustained his injuries. I worry every time he is late home and grateful every time he returns home safely.'

Our campaign is focussing on a number of elements: ensuring officers report any assault they suffer and that it is recorded onto their force crime recording system; ensuring forces investigate them fully; lobbying of MPs to get a change in the law for harsher sentences for those who assault officers; and better protection for officers as they go about their jobs. The PFEW has previously got the law changed so that those convicted of murdering police officers will now be sentenced to life.

Officers need better protection – whether that is to be double crewed or to have access to Taser so these elements also feature as part of the campaign which targets politicians, officers, the public and forces in a bid to tackle this serious issue.

Get involved on Twitter using #PoliceOfficerSafety.