Federation disappointment as assaults bill is watered down
The assaults bill drafted after the Police Federation's Protect the Protectors campaign has successfully passed its third reading in the House of Commons.
But Andrea Breeze, chair of Cleveland Police Federation, is concerned that it has been watered down as it has made its way through the legislative process.
"We welcome the fact that the bill has continued to receive cross-party support from MPs who seem to have listened to what we have been saying with the Protect the Protectors campaign," says Andrea.
"Assaults on police officers - and other emergency service workers for that matter - are simply unacceptable and the courts should have the power to not only punish those who carry out those attacks but also hand out sentences that act as a deterrent to others.
"We had hoped this new bill would give the courts the ability to impose a 24-month jail sentence on those found guilty of assaulting officers and their blue light colleagues but this is likely to remain at 12 months which is disappointing."
Rhondda Labour MP Chris Bryant put forward the Assaults on Emergency Services (Offences) Bill and received support from MPs of all parties last year and also on Friday (27 April) when it came before the House of Commons again.
The bill gives police added protection when it comes to sexual assault but the maximum term for common assault remains at 12 months rather than the 24 months that had been proposed.
The Federation's national chair Calum Macleod shares Andrea's concerns, saying this could lessen the new bill's impact. He explained: "Magistrates do not have 12 months sentencing powers for one offence, therefore six months is the maximum we can expect at the moment.
"Offenders are being under-charged and prosecuted for a lesser offence. This is the reality and this is why police officers will continue to feel under-valued with criminals laughing in the face of justice."
While a number of MPs spoke during Friday's debate, the Conservative MP for Mid-Worcestershire, Nigel Huddleston, perhaps best summed it up: "I want to say in conclusion that it is my hope, and that of many others in this House, that the passage of the bill will send a clear message to emergency service workers about how deeply they are valued, and provide some reassurance that they do not need to tolerate abuse and assault while carrying out their duties.
"I hope too that the bill's passage will send a message to the public that emergency service workers are protected by legislation and that those who are violent towards them will face the full force of the law."
While his North Warwickshire Conservative colleague Craig Tracey said: "I am sure that we all agree that assault on anyone in any situation is awful, but to attack someone who is trying to help another person in an emergency is callous, heinous and totally unacceptable.
"Punishment for such assaults on emergency workers should fit the crime, and I believe that it is right and fair to give a judge the ability to take them into consideration as an aggravating factor in determining a sentence."