We need stronger protection for police and their blue-light colleagues
Former Cabinet minister Stephen Crabb explains why he is supporting the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill: "For all the risks that come with being a police officer, being on the receiving end of assaults by the public should not be one of them".
Emergency workers such as the ambulance service, the fire brigade and the police do an outstanding job in putting their lives at risk to ensure our safety. They do this under very difficult circumstances. In recent months, their importance has been highlighted through their excellent response to events such as the Grenfell Tower disaster and the terror attacks.
Pembrokeshire has one of the lowest crime rates in the UK, thanks to an excellent team of local police officers and PCSOs. Personally, I have had the privilege of accompanying the police on Saturday-night shifts in my constituency and have seen and experienced first-hand what they go through, increasing my respect for them all the more.
Yet for all the risks and difficulties that come with the job of being a police officer, being on the receiving end of assaults by members of the public, the very people they work to protect, should not be one of them. Sadly, this seems to be the case.
The Police Federation of England and Wales estimates that a police officer is assaulted every four minutes. This is worrying and plainly unacceptable.
As Calum Macleod, PFEW vice-chair notes, “Police officers are people too, and can be broken. They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons, and none of them deserve to go to work and get assaulted.”
This is why I am proud to co-sponsor Chris Bryant’s private member’s bill – The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill 2017. The Bill has received cross-party support and seeks to introduce new offences including wounding or assault when perpetrated against an emergency worker (or someone assisting them) in the performance of their duties.
It further seeks to address situations where those suspected of assault may pose a health risk, including spitting. In this regard, they will be compelled to undergo blood tests. It will also be an offence to refuse to undergo such tests and it will lay down tough sentences for those convicted of these new offences.
I have had a longstanding interest in policing. I have fought for fairer funding for the local police to ensure that they can work effectively across a large rural area. I have also hosted joint surgeries with PCSOs in some of the major towns in my constituency. Supporting this bill is another way of acting on this interest and standing in solidarity with the police who do an excellent job.
The subject matter of the bill was the highest in response to Chris’s request for suggestions from the public when he came first in the private member’s bill ballot. The Protect the Protectors campaign, launched by the PFEW, highlights the assaults on police and is aimed at tackling this worrying trend of assault of police officers.
The campaign seeks better protection for the police through a change in legislation, tougher sentences, better training and access to equipment, more accurate data on police assaults and improved welfare support.
In addition to our recent increase to their pay, supporting this bill further demonstrates to the public and to our very able police forces that we listen to their concerns and act on them.
The Conservative party is fully committed to protecting the public and the country’s public services, and supporting this bill is consistent with that aim. This is why I hope that many of my colleagues will support the bill so that it becomes law in order to truly protect those who protect us.
Stephen Crabb is Conservative MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire
This article also appears in the Conservative conference edition of the House Magazine alongside this article from Calum Macleod, Vice Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales.
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