Watered down 'Assaults Bill' passes

27 April 2018

MPs Holly Lynch and Chris Bryant with emergency services members

A bill making it an aggravated offence to assault the emergency services has been passed by MPs – but police are disappointed that key provisions have been “watered down”.

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant’s Assaults on Emergency Services (Offences) Bill successfully navigated its Reports Stage and Third Reading on Friday (27 April) and will now be heard in the House of Lords – but the draft legislation does not provide the level of protection that the Police Federation of England and Wales has been campaigning for.

The Bill does give police added protection when it comes to sexual assault and that is welcome news for our members. However, the deterrents are not strong enough, with the maximum term for common assault remaining at 12 months – much harsher sentences are needed. Assurances were given by the government that the horrific act of spitting will enforced as a common assault. In West Yorkshire alone there were 362 cases of assaults by spitting in the last year.

Reacting to today’s reading, Calum Macleod, Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales said:  “We are grateful for the support of Chris Bryant, Holly Lynch, Philip Davies and other MPs, but the today’s Bill as it stands still leaves police vulnerable with the likelihood that offenders will face little or no additional consequences for their actions when it comes to common assault. 

“The heinous act of spitting is only partially addressed and the maximum sentence that common assault will lead to is 12 months.  Unless magistrates and the criminal justice system take the issue of assaults seriously, offenders will face no deterrent.  12 months is simply not enough. The cynical are concerned tougher sentencing will fill prisons – but if offenders know they could face a lengthy sentence In Her Majesty’s Prison this could make them think twice.”

“We are not asking for anything less than what our officers deserve – they currently feel let down and it is no wonder.  Police feel undervalued and criminals are laughing in the face of justice.”

The debate in Parliament saw MPs acknowledge that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) too often bargains away assaults on emergency services in order to secure a guilty plea – and it routinely fails to charge to charge offenders in proper accordance with the severity of their crimes. It was also acknowledged that offenders routinely serve only half of their sentences. On spitting, MPs heard that the risk of catching a communicable disease is extremely low and Health England should revise the advice that forces are given.

Labour MP Mr Bryant, speaking after the debate today, said he hoped the Bill would pass through the Lords and would ensure there is better legislation on the statute books protecting emergency services by the autumn. He added: “The bottom line is – an attack on anyone is wrong but attacks on police and the emergency services is in effect an attack on all of us, so of course the law should be brought to bear on them and that is exactly what we are going to do.”

A Hampshire officer was savagely bitten in the arm – her injuries required reconstructive surgery.  The offender received two years and four months in prison.  He was released after serving only seven months. A West Yorkshire officer’s teeth were damaged and her confidence shattered when a man head-butted her in the face. He was released back into the community. A Gloucestershire officer was knocked unconscious and left with a head wound – the offender received a 12 month sentence, suspended for 18 months. It is for officers such as these that the campaign to Protect the Protectors was launched and is why the Federation will continue the fight.

 

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