Assaults on police officers will still not be punished enough says the Police Federation of England and Wales, despite the Assaults on Emergency Services (Offences) Bill passing its report stage in Parliament.
The Federation says key elements they wanted to see have not been included, that provisions the bill aimed to address have been ‘watered down’ and that criminals will continue to ‘laugh in the face of justice.’
Officers will get added protection against sexual assaults under the terms of the bill, but the longest term offenders can receive for common assault will remain at just 12 months.
The bill went through its report stage and third reading last week and will now progress to the House of Lords.
PFEW Chair Calum Macleod said the Federation was incredibly grateful for the support provided by Chris Bryant MP, who proposed the bill, and MPs Holly Lynch and Philip Davies.
However, he said there was disappointment that key elements had been watered down.
“Cross party recognition was given by all parties in the House of Commons of the incredible work of the police and other emergency services,” he said.
“They all wanted to send a clear signal that assaults should not be tolerated, but sadly we feel underwhelmed.
“As it stands the bill still leaves police vulnerable with the likelihood that offenders will face little or no additional consequences for their actions when it comes to common assault.
“Unless magistrates and the criminal justice system take the issue of assaults seriously, offenders will still face no deterrent,” he added.
Magistrates will not have the powers to sentence offenders for once offence, he said, meaning that a six-month sentence is realistically all that can be handed down.
“Offenders are being under-charged and prosecuted for a lesser offence,” he said.
“This is the reality, and this is why police officers will continue to feel under valued.
“Criminals will laugh in the face of justice.”
MPs acknowledged during the debate that the CPS bargains away on assaults on emergency services in order to get a guilty plea ‘too often’.
The debate also covered whether the CPS fails to charge offenders to match the severity of the assaults they have carried out and that too often full sentences are not served.
Spitting as an assault on emergency services was discussed too.
Justice Minister Rory Stewart said the act would be called out and that more specific instructions would be given to the CPS on how to handle the act as part of an assault.
Chris Bryant MP hopes the House of Lords will rubber stamp the bill.
“The bottom line is an attack on anyone is wrong, but an attack on police and the emergency services is an attack on all of us.
“The law should be brought to bear on them and that is exactly what we are going to do.”