Priti Patel hints at tougher sentences for 'unacceptable' assaults on police as she launches new pledge to protect officers
People who assault police officers should face longer stints behind bars, Priti Patel has suggested.
The Home Secretary said it was “unacceptable” that officers were attacked in the line of duty and said she had been motivated to push for change after the death of Andrew Harper, who was killed last year while investigating a burglary.
The comments came as Ms Patel launched a Home Office consultation on the Government’s long-promised plans for a so-called ‘Police Covenant’.
The plan would formally recognise that police hold the “office of constable”, and give a legal guarantee of care and support to those on the frontline and their families.
It mirrors a similar pledge introduced in the armed forces, which asks government, businesses and charities to treat those who have served fairly.
The police plan also asks officers to abide by a code of ethics, which the Home Office says will set out “the high standards of behaviour expected from everyone who works in policing in England and Wales, both on and off duty”.
Speaking to the Daily Express as she prepared to launch the consultation at a conference in London, Ms Patel said: “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.”
And she added: “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.
“This covenant is about what there is not, and correcting the wrong in terms of the lack of support that exists for our officers.”
The 28-year-old PC Harper was killed last August while responding to reports of a burglary, just weeks after marrying his partner. He was the first police officer to die on duty since PC Keith Palmer was killed defending the House of Commons from a terror attack in 2017.
The Home Office plan has been welcomed by the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers.
National chair John Apter said: “Policing is a dangerous and unpredictable job and it’s essential that there is something in place that ensures that police officers, staff, retired colleagues and their families receive the support they deserve.
“This consultation is an opportunity to help shape what a Police Covenant will look like. This is something I feel extremely passionate about and it’s great to see this taking a step closer to becoming a reality.”
The pledge comes after new figures from the Ministry of Justice show that average jail sentences for assaulting emergency workers are just 2.6 months - far short of the 12-month maximum sentence available under the new Assaults on Emergency Workers Act.