Priti Patel pledges to get tough on police assaults

26 February 2020, 05:27

The Home Secretary is the Minister responsible for policing
The Home Secretary is the Minister responsible for policing. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Stronger punishments are needed for those who assault police officers, the Home Secretary Priti Patel has said the law needs to be changed.

"We have to be very clear - to hurt an officer is simply unacceptable and if we have to change our laws to reflect that, we will," Ms Patel told the Daily Express.

Launching a consultation for a new Police Covenant the Home Secretary suggested there should be stronger penalties for those who assault officers.

The cabinet minister said she was motivated to create change following the death of PC Andrew Harper who was killed last year while responding to a burglary.

"What happened to Pc Harper opened the gateway for me to learn much more about police, their health and wellbeing, help and support and what there is and what there isn't," Ms Patel said.

"This covenant is about what there is not and correcting the wrong in terms of the lack of support that exists for our officers."

From the middle of November 2018, the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act doubled the previous maximum sentence to 12 months in jail for such offences.

Violent assaults on police officers have rocketed by more than a quarter in a year.

Attacks where officers suffered an injury increased from 8,157 in 2017 to 10,399 in 2018, equal to 28 attacks a day.

But official figures released last week showed just 13% of criminals who attack police and emergency workers are being sent to jail with more being let off with a fine.

The average time behind bars was never longer than three months, according to data covering the first 11 months since new sentencing laws for attacks on emergency workers were introduced.

The Police Federation of England and Wales has long campaigned for tougher punishments for those who attack its members, with chairman John Apter telling the Express that Ms Patel's announcement was welcome.

The announcement comes as the National Police Chiefs' Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners hold a joint summit on Wednesday.