Magistrates, Judges and prosecutors alike need to pay attention to new guidelines which should see harsher sentences handed down to those who attack Emergency Services workers. That’s the view of the Police Federation following the release of new prosecution data from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
The new statistics just published by the CPS reveal that the organisation has prosecuted more than 50 assaults per day in the first year of legislation making attacks on emergency workers a specific offence. In a shocking nine out of every 10 cases, the research highlights that the victims have been police officers.
Between November 2018 and November last year, 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 a spate of high-profile assaults on officers.
John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, 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 fpr Emergency Services workers, the hard-working men and women who serve and protect the public. It’s completely unacceptable. An attack should never be considered ‘part of the job’.
Apter added: “It’ good to see the CPS recognising that the current system isn’t working and issuing new guidelines for prosecutors. Now I urge magistrates to do the right thing and heed any advice passed down to them. They should use their full sentencing powers such that the law provides the intended deterrent and punitive effect. This is something I will be taking up with the Home Secretary when I meet her in the coming weeks.”
Views of the victims
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 the Police Federation’s ‘Protect The Protectors’ campaign which highlighted the violence and assaults Emergency Services 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.
Apter commented: “I’m glad to see that the majority of offenders are being convicted. However, there’s no detail of the sentences they were given. 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 Services workers do all they can to reinforce the clear and unequivocal messages that society will not tolerate this type of appalling behaviour.”
Measures in the updated guidance also include:
*ensuring that prosecutors seek the maximum sentence in court, including playing any body-worn video footage to the presiding Judge
*reminding prosecutors to charge assaults on Emergency Services workers where the Code Test is met, even where more serious offences have been committed, such that the conduct is reflected on the defendant’s criminal record
*underlining the requirement to treat assaults committed on bail or on licence as an aggravating feature