Leicester Mercury

Send strong message for assaults on 999 workers, courts urged


- By CIARAN FAGAN ciaran.fagan@reachplc.com @ciaranefag­an leicesterm­ercury.co.uk

POLICE have called on the courts to use their full sentencing powers to punish thugs responsibl­e for a rising tide of violence against them.

Leicesters­hire Police Federation, which represents lower ranks, said magistrate­s and judges could send out a strong message to those tempted to use violence against 999 workers.

New figures show there were 691 assaults on officers in the county last year – a significan­t increase on recent years.

So far this year, the force has recorded more than 100 instances of officers being attacked in some form, according to figures obtained by the BBC.

In 2017, the total number of recorded assaults was 332. The following year it reached 392 and in 2019 it rose again to 423.

Adam Commons, chairman of Leicesters­hire Police Federation, said: “What we have seen in the last year during the Covid pandemic is a high number of people choosing to spit and cough in my colleagues’ faces, on top of the physical abuse that they suffer.”

Police officers across the country set up the Protect the Protectors campaign to call for courts to be given greater powers to punish people who assault them and other emergency workers.

As a result, the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill came into force in 2018.

That strengthen­ed courts’ powers to sentence those who attacked 999 staff.

A charge of common assault against an emergency worker previously carried a maximum sentence of six months in jail. The Act raised it to 12 months.

Mr Commons said: “Our Protect the Protectors campaign has brought incredible changes to sentencing powers.

“But we need the courts to utilise those powers. If people know they could go to prison it will make them think twice before laying their hands, or anything else on my hardworkin­g colleagues.”

Chief Constable Simon Cole has spoken out frequently against those who assault his officers.

He writes victim impact statements each time a suspect appears in court for attacking a member of his staff, whether an officer or a civilian.

He started the practice in 2018 when the new legislatio­n was introduced.

Currently, his letters specifical­ly address the impact the virus is having on the force and on the wider community and the health implicatio­ns for officers who are spat at or coughed on.

His letters also spell out in detail how the individual officers had been affected by the physical and mental trauma of being attacked in the line of duty.

Mr Cole said of the latest assault figures: “Thankfully lots of these assaults are relatively minor but, sadly, some are pretty serious and that cannot be acceptable.”

If people know they could go to prison it will make them think twice before laying their hands, or anything else, on my hardworkin­g colleagues

Adam Commons, Leicesters­hire Police Federation

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