Police let down by ‘weak legislation'
22 May 2018
Conference facilitator Ian Collins, PC Laura Gargett and Chair of West Yorks Police Federation Nick Smart
PC Laura Gargett of West Yorkshire Police was kicked in the face and stamped on by a woman who was violently resisting arrest. She bravely finished her shift before going home to her children with her face black and blue. Despite this her attacker received a paltry 16 weeks on a tag and was ordered to pay the officer £150 compensation.
PC Gargett's story was one of several powerful videos shown as part of the Protect the Protectors session on the first day of Conference. She then stepped on to the stage along with Nick Smart, Chair of West Yorkshire Police Federation to discuss her thoughts around what had happened.
She told host Ian Collins that assault is a daily risk for a police officer, and added: "I get disheartened that the legislation isn’t in place to support us when these things happen. I think that’s because the hands of the criminal justice system are shackled by weak legislation. We need to get the message out there that the law needs changing because these assaults are becoming too commonplace."
PC Gargett called on the courts to send a strong signal to members of the public that "if you are going to attack a front line worker then there are consequences". Her message was then powerfully reiterated by Nick Smart, Chair of West Yorkshire Police Federation, who said PC Gargett had been kicked, stamped on and knocked unconscious and had been very luck to escape serious injury. He went on to say: "We then get a weak tariff from the courts – it’s offensive to police officers."
PC Vaughan Lowe, a response driver from West Midlands Police, shared his harrowing and tragic story: while responding to an emergency in 2012 he had collided with and killed a pedestrian who stepped in front of his car. PC Lowe spoke emotionally about the incident and what happened next. He was put on trial for dangerous driving and exonerated, then faced a further 18 months of uncertainty after he was subject to gross misconduct proceedings. Again he was cleared.
Tim Rogers, who is the Police Federation’s national lead on Pursuits, reminded Conference that until there is a change in the law, police officers are vulnerable. This is because if something goes wrong they are judged against the common standard of a ‘careful and competent driver’ which does not take into account their advanced police driver training. He added: "It is absolutely necessary for officers to be able to deviate from the standard of a careful and competent driver in order to do their job and protect the public."
The session also saw the first broadcast of a new video (above) from the Federation featuring a number of police officers as well as a prison officer and ambulance paramedic sharing their harrowing experiences of being assaulted and sexually assaulted while on duty.