A Police Federation campaign which calls for harsher sentences for those who assault police officers and other emergency service workers has received the backing of MPs in Parliament.
The ‘Protect The Protectors’ campaign was launched last Monday (6 February) by the Police Federation of England and Wales after growing concern about the rising numbers of attacks on police officers.
On Tuesday (7 February) Halifax MP Holly Lynch (Labour), who is championing the campaign, introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill on assaults on emergency services staff in the House of Commons with two West Midlands officers who had been the victim of recent assaults being on hand to discuss their experiences with MPs.
The bill received cross-party support from MPs – many of whom cheered in the chamber when Ms Lynch said that laws in Australia mean that offenders who spit and refuse to have a blood test can receive a $12,000 (£7,320) fine and a custodial sentence.
The bill calls for assaults against emergency service workers – ‘a constable, firefighter, doctor, paramedic or nurse’ – to become a specific offence.
Ms Lynch also called for those offenders who spit at emergency responders to be required to have a blood test, and make it an offence if they refuse, so that officers know if they are at risk of contracting life-threatening diseases.
Tom Cuddeford, interim chairman of West Midlands Police Federation, who accompanied PCs Mike Bruce and Alan O’Shea on the visit to Parliament, said: “It is pleasing to see growing support for this campaign and for West Midlands officers to be playing their part in raising awareness of the growing number of attacks on the police.
“The reading of the bill is hopefully the first step to gaining full support from MPs so that new laws can be introduced to improve the legal protection offered to police officers and our colleagues in the other emergency services.”
Ms Lynch spoke about her work with blue light officers including the two West Midlands PCs who had blood spat in their faces while trying to arrest a violent offender.
Because the offender refused to give a blood sample, both had to undergo anti-viral treatments to reduce their risk of contracting communicable diseases, and they faced an agonising six-month wait to find out whether the treatment had been successful.
She told MPs: “Behind the uniforms are incredibly brave and dedicated individuals who, regrettably, face risks that they simply should not have to face on an almost daily basis. They routinely go above and beyond their duties to keep the public safe, yet when someone sets out deliberately to injure or assault an emergency responder, the laws in place must convey how unacceptable that is in the strongest possible terms.”
And she added: “To assault a police officer is to show a complete disregard for law and order, our shared values and democracy itself, and that must be reflected in sentencing, particularly for those who are repeat offenders.
“Many officers described feeling like they had suffered an injustice twice - first at the hands of the offender; and then again in court when sentences were unduly lenient.”
After the bill, PFEW representatives, including vice chair Calum Macleod, West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Nick Smart and Tom Cuddeford met with MPs to discuss the aims of the campaign and seek further support.
Mr Macleod said: “We are grateful to Holly for giving her support to police officers, and other emergency service workers, who are all too often getting assaulted in the line of duty. We do not believe that being hit, kicked, spat at or shoved is ‘just part of the job’ and we are delighted the bill passed its first reading. It was great to see it get support from all sides of the house.”
The bill will be read for a second time in the House on 24 March.