New figures reveal violent reality for emergency service workers
National Chair welcomes CPS guidance which may lead to harsher sentences.
Magistrates, judges and prosecutors need to pay attention to new guidelines which should see harsher sentences handed down to those who attack emergency service workers, the Police Federation urges following the release of new prosecution data from the Crown Prosecution Service.
Today (7 January) first-of-a-kind stats from the CPS revealed it has prosecuted more than 50 assaults a day in the first year of legislation making attacks on emergency workers a specific offence – with research showing in a shocking nine out of 10 cases the victims were police officers.
Between November 2018 and 2019, almost 20,000 offences were charged under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act – three-quarters of which were assault by beating. The first cases to go through the courts also show a conviction rate of 90%.
As well as publishing this data the CPS has launched a set of new guidelines, prompting prosecutors to remind magistrates to use their full sentencing powers after serious concerns were flagged to the CPS by various policing figures in the wake of spate of high-profile assaults on officers.
Responding to the launch, National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales John Apter said: “In recent months there have been some shocking attacks on our colleagues which have rightly hit the headlines, this comes as the overall assault figures continue to rise year on year.
“These attacks show a shocking lack of respect towards our emergency service workers, the hard-working men and women who serve and protect the public. It is completely unacceptable, and an attack should never be considered ‘part of the job’."
He added: “It is good to see the CPS recognising that the current system is not working and issuing new guidelines for prosecutors.
“Now I urge Magistrates to do the right thing and heed any advice passed down to them. And to use their full sentencing powers so the law provides the deterrent and punitive effect it was intended to. Which is something I will be taking up with the Home Secretary when I meet her in the coming weeks,” said Mr Apter.
In addition, the guidelines state that victims’ views should now also be taken into account when pleas to other offences are accepted or cases discontinued, with special consideration given to the vulnerability of the emergency worker.
The introduction of the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act came following PFEW’s “Protect the Protectors” campaign which highlighted the violence and assaults emergency service workers face doing their job.
The Act allows for a maximum sentence of 12 months, however the Federation continues to lobby for this to be increased – something the Home Secretary has given her backing to.
Mr Apter continued: “I am glad to see that a majority of offenders are being convicted, however there is no detail of the sentences they were given, and we await with interest the Ministry of Justice’s data on that element.
“The Federation will continue to campaign to ensure that all those who have the power to protect our brave and hardworking emergency service workers do all they can to reinforce the clear and unequivocal messages that society will not tolerate this type of appalling behaviour,” he concluded.
Measures in the updated guidance also include:
•Ensuring that prosecutors seek the maximum sentence in court, including playing any body-worn footage to the judge;
•Remind prosecutors to charge assaults on emergency workers where the Code Test is met, even where more serious offences have been committed, so the conduct is reflected on the defendant’s criminal record;
•Underlining the requirement to treat assaults committed on bail or licence as an aggravating feature