I welcome potential increase in jail term for those who assault emergency workers

Angus portrait 04/02

This week I welcomed the news that the Government is considering doubling the maximum jail term for those who assault emergency workers.

Currently, those convicted of this offence, which covers police officers and civilian police staff such as police community support workers, face 12 months in prison - a term which was doubled from the previous six month limit just two years ago.

But plans to increase it once again, this time to a maximum of two years, are being consulted on by ministers.

It already has the support of the Home Secretary Priti Patel, who said it sent a "clear and simple message" that criminals would not get away with "appalling behaviour".

And I agree with her that we need tougher prison sentences for those who attack people working on the front line.

I am in regular contact with South Swindon MP and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, so will make sure I continue to follow this up and ensure he is across the picture here in Swindon and Wiltshire.

Officers and civilian police staff face verbal and physical abuse and assaults almost every day while out policing our communities across the county and it is unacceptable.

During the COVID19 pandemic we have seen a rise in incidents where offenders have coughed on or spat at police officers - sometimes while wrongly alleging that they are infected with COVID19 and are trying to pass the virus on.

We also had a recent case in Swindon where an officer suffered a broken nose, and another in Salisbury where an officer was bitten on the arm.

There is no doubt in my mind that someone who deliberately injures an emergency worker - who is simply doing their job, protecting the public - deserves a lengthy spell in prison.

But it is not enough for the Government to increase the maximum jail term.

We need the courts to respond to this increase and we need judges to impose these longer jail terms.

I have done a huge amount of work with the courts and I myself served as a magistrate for 20 years.

I know from personal experience that sentencing is a complex and nuanced issue, with many factors to weigh up and matters to take into consideration.

But, I also believe the Government and the judiciary need to take a stand to highlight the unacceptable abuse targeted towards those working in policing (and other frontline emergency workers) and show that they stand united in supporting injured and assaulted police officers and police staff.