Melanie Onn: It’s time to send a strong message that assault or abuse of our public servants is never acceptable

Posted On: 
4th February 2019

Assault and abuse can have a significant impact on those who serve and protect us. It’s time our justice system took this into account, writes Melanie Onn

Onn says the justice system "needs to more responsive to the effect that crime has on our public servants"
Credit: 
PA

My Ten Minute Rule Bill on Tuesday would mean that the impact of crimes on public servants doing their job would be taken into account in courts.

Last May police officers in my constituency attended early morning reports of a man with a knife wound and drug use. What happened next should make all of our skins crawl.

When they moved to arrest 27-year-old Josse Jackson he spat at them while telling them “I have got hep C and Aids”, threatened repeatedly to bite them and told a female officer that he would “find out where you live and you will be dead before the end of the week”.

Such an attack should come with a significant custodial sentence, but in October he received a sentence of just 13 weeks and was released almost immediately.

Being on the end of such of an attack would be emotionally and physically taxing for any of us, but this could be particularly damaging for those who carry out arrests as part of their day to day work.

While most of us would be able to take time to recover from this situation and take measures to ensure we don’t end up in a dangerous situation again, those in our emergency services have to be able to run towards these situations and deal with them professionally and confidently.

Going through an experience like a violent arrest resistance or an emotionally distressing case can make officers far less comfortable in approaching a situation that could lead to a repeat occurrence, could reduce their confidence at dealing with arrests and often means that officers have to take time off while they recover.

From April to December 2017, the West Midlands lost 356 days of valuable police time while officers recovered from their injuries. Costing the taxpayer the equivalent of £65,000 in sick pay.

Our communities are missing out on vital community presence and resources as a direct result of the actions of criminals towards public sector workers, and our streets are less safe as a result.

The professional impact of crimes can be severe and wide reaching, yet there are no current statutory measures to ensure that the impact of crimes on the ability of public servants to do their job is considered in sentencing.

We need to change that and make our justice system more responsive to the effect that crime has on our public servants.

My Ten Minute Rule Bill that I will present on Tuesday would do exactly that. My Bill would introduce a Professional Impact Statement as part of the sentencing process, ensuring that the impact of a crime on public sector workers ability to do their jobs are particularly considered when handing down sentences.

Professional Impact Statements are already produced by a number of police forces across the country when officers are injured in the line of duty, the West Midlands’ police Chief Dave Thompson outlines the impact on his force and the wider community during sentencing in his area, but there is currently no national standard for how these are produced or considered.

By making Professional Impact Statements part of national sentencing guidance, my bill would add an additional level of support to public servants who have come to harm through their work and send a strong message that assault and abuse should never be part of the job for any worker in the UK.

Chris Bryant’s ‘Protect the Protectors’ Act was welcomed by our public services as it gave them a vital layer of protection by doubling the maximum sentence for those who assault emergency workers. My Bill would take this work further by acting on calls by the likes of Humberside Force to have the broader consequence of the impact on the Force’s ability to continue its function to be considered at sentencing.

We need to give as strong as protection as possible to those who work to make our communities safer and stronger, and my bill would help to do that.

Melanie Onn is Labour MP for Great Grimsby