17 May 2017
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has promised to back Chief Constables who introduce spit and bite guards to protect their officers from this vile form of assault.
She made the commitment at the PFEW’s annual conference in Birmingham, the day after her Labour counterpart Diane Abbott refused to give a similar commitment, citing the need for more evidence.
North Yorkshire officer, Mike Stubbs, told the Home Secretary on Wednesday: “Even in our small rural force in the last few months, numerous officers have suffered the degrading and humiliating experience of being spat at in the face. My question is in three parts: Do you understand what spit guards are; do you understand why they are necessary; and would you support and back chief constables who choose to issue them?”
Ms Rudd replied “yes, yes and yes”, prompting applause from the audience and facilitator Ian Collins to remark: “So that’s how you answer the spit guard question.”
The Home Secretary was given a rougher reception over police pay. She was also challenged by PFEW Chair Steve White to commit to increasing police numbers and to approving a 2.8% pay rise, which the PFEW has evidenced. Ms Rudd said public sector pay restraints would be necessary for the current state of the economy.
On the conference theme of Protecting the Protectors, Interim National Board member Phil Matthews asked the Home Secretary to comment on PFEW’s call for increased sentences for those who assault police officers and emergency services workers. He said: “We understand finances are tight. It won’t cost you a penny to show your support for our members and police officers up and down this country to devote some parliamentary time looking at that – they are out there trying to keep you all safe.”
The Home Secretary responded by saying the necessary legislation is already in place. She said assaults on public servants are treated as an “aggravated crime” and Policing Minister Brandon Lewis has engaged with the Sentencing Council over the issue. She added: “We will keep looking at the amount of crimes against police officers and whether there is need for further legislation.”
Sergeant Louise Bates from Bedfordshire asked a question via Skype, which raised mental health issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can result from assaults on police officers. Pointing out that a number of her colleagues have been assaulted and were missing from the workforce, she said those left have had to cope without them and do more with fewer numbers.
Amber Rudd responded that mental health issues are “incredibly important” and added: “The Prime Minister has said we need new legislation to protect people at work when they have mental health difficulties – a sixth of us are expected to have mental health difficulties at some point. I know that (PFEW Chair) Steve White has put in a bid to the Police Transformation Fund and I’m keen to support that if I am elected and reappointed after the election on June 8th.”