Thugs who assault police or other emergency service workers should face longer in jail, Priti Patel says today.
Writing exclusively for the Daily Mail, the Home Secretary reveals details of plans to double the maximum sentence for criminals convicted of attacking 999 staff.
She will today launch a review that recommends increasing the maximum jail term to two years, fulfilling a commitment in last year’s Conservative election manifesto.
Miss Patel highlights recent shocking cases of disorder in which anarchists hijacked a Black Lives Matter protest in Westminster last month and far-Right thugs went on the rampage.
‘A minority of despicable individuals still seem to think they can treat emergency services workers as punchbags,’ the Home Secretary writes.
‘Now more than ever, those on the front line must be able to do their jobs without fear of harassment or physical attack. This Government is committed to doing just that.
‘We’ve seen thugs subverting the cause of peaceful protests to attack police officers – even throwing missiles at police horses. I am completely unapologetic in my belief that any individual who assaults or attacks the unsung heroes of society belongs behind bars.
‘It’s essential that in these horrific cases, a just punishment is handed down. Only then can our brave police officers, firefighters, paramedics and prison officers know that, as they go about their jobs, this Government has their back.’
On June 10, there was horror at a video of Constable Andrew MacPherson struggling with a suspect on the ground in Hackney, east London.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, whose department will oversee the changes, said: ‘Being punched, kicked or spat at should never be part of the job for our valiant emergency workers who put their lives on the line to keep the public safe.’
Assault can include acts such as a push, shove or being spat at, as well as more serious injuries that can lead to far longer sentences.
It will be the second time in less than two years that the maximum sentence for the offence has been increased.
In November 2018 the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act doubled the maximum penalty for common assault from six to 12 months.The legislation covers police, prison staff, custody officers, firefighters, search and rescue workers and front-line health workers.
The Conservatives’ election manifesto last year pledged the further doubling to two years, and the consultation launched today seeks to set that in train.
Last year more than 11,000 suspects were taken to court for assaulting an emergency worker.
However only a quarter of those found guilty received immediate custody or a suspended jail sentence.
We must show brave police that we have got their back
By Priti Patel, Home Secretary
The work of our emergency services during the coronavirus pandemic has been simply astounding.
Each and every day, they put their lives on the line, facing more dangers than many of us do in our whole lifetimes.
Like many others, I have found it humbling to see those on the frontline go above and beyond in the most challenging circumstances to keep the public safe and control this deadly virus.
And yet despite this, a minority of despicable individuals still seem to think they can treat emergency services workers as punchbags.
Now more than ever, those on the front line must be able to do their jobs without fear of harassment or physical attack. This Government is committed to doing just that.
Those who carry out these attacks need to understand the seriousness of their crime.
That’s why today, we’re announcing a targeted consultation on doubling the maximum sentence for assaults on emergency workers – from 12 months to two years.
It’s essential that in these horrific cases, a just punishment is handed down. Only then can our brave police officers, firefighters, paramedics and prison officers know that, as they go about their jobs, this Government has their back.
I recently spoke to police officers who were attacked on the job.
One officer from Gwent Police is still in recovery after being stabbed in the abdomen while on duty. The suspect was charged with attempted murder.
Another officer from West Yorkshire Police was coughed at by an individual claiming to be infected with coronavirus.
These are just two examples, but each and every day members of our emergency services are being attacked in the line of duty.
Hearing the impact these awful incidents have had on their lives, I am more determined than ever to make sure there are tough consequences to help stop the vile perpetrators.
Some of the injuries suffered have not only affected their physical and mental health, but the lives of their families.
I am determined that no police officer or emergency service worker should have to go to work fearing for their personal safety.
No family should have to live in fear of a loved one being injured or even killed.
Tragically, assaults on police officers have increased over the last year – between January and December 2019, there were 30,135 assaults on police officers. This is absolutely unacceptable.And I know that the public agree with me that this has to stop. Recently we’ve seen thugs subverting the cause of peaceful protests to attack police officers – even throwing missiles at police horses.
We’ve seen gangs of despicable criminals assaulting police officers in Hackney, who were responding to calls of concern from members of the public.
And we’ve witnessed vile scenes in Brixton, where violent thugs have brazenly damaged police property and threatened officers.
I am completely unapologetic in my belief that any individual who assaults or attacks the unsung heroes of society belongs behind bars.
We have already taken action to protect our brave police officers – giving them the resources, powers and support they need.
We’ve already recruited over 3,000 police officers as part of our campaign to bring in 20,000 additional officers over the next three years.
Having more police on our streets will help officers to feel supported, safe in the knowledge that, when they tackle criminals, back-up is never far away.
Police funding has seen its biggest uplift in a decade, with available funding increasing by over £1billion this year.
And we will enshrine the Police Covenant in law to ensure officers, and their families, have the support they need.
The Covenant will focus on health and wellbeing, physical protection and support. They deserve nothing less.
To those emergency services workers who have been subject to the most dreadful abuse – I promise that I am committed to bringing perpetrators to justice, seeing that they face the full force of the law, and ensuring that the punishment truly fits the crime.
Rest assured, you will always have my support, and the support of this Government.