Crime figures reveal rise in assaults on emergency service workers

A 26 per cent rise in assaults against emergency workers proves the courts have to impose tougher sentences on those found guilty of such attacks, says South Wales Police Federation chair Steve Treharne.

New crime figures for England and Wales were released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) at the end of last week with the rise in attacks thought to be driven by increases in common assaults on the police, including suspects spitting on officers while claiming to be infected with Covid-19.

“I am getting increasingly annoyed and frustrated to see that while crime has fallen during the numerous lockdowns through the pandemic assaults on police officers have steadily increased,” says Steve.

“This upward trend cannot be allowed to continue unchecked. Police officers have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic, despite the risks to their own health and that of their families should they take the virus home with them.

“They should be commended for their actions but instead we are seeing some individuals showing them complete contempt, assaulting them, verbally abusing them and spitting or coughing over them while claiming to have Covid-19 which I find despicable.

“The courts now have tougher sentences available to them, they have been given sentencing guidelines and we must see them using the full powers they have been given in these cases.”

National Police Federation chair John Apter has also responded to the release of the figures.

He explained: “This increased level of violence is not just a one-off. It is becoming the new norm which is completely unacceptable. Violence in our society is not just a policing issue, all parts of Government and society itself must work together to combat this alarming increase.

“Part of this is ensuring those responsible for attacking police officers face a suitable deterrent in court. The sentencing guidelines have been changed, so we need judges and magistrates to use these powers to set an example to those who are assaulting our colleagues, those responsible must spend time in prison. This unjustified violence is a stain on society and needs to be dealt with robustly.”

The latest crime figures cover the four-week period ending 11 April 2021 and are compared with the equivalent period in 2019, rather than 2020. This is to allow comparisons with a more normal time-period, since the national lockdown in place at the same time last year (2020) was associated with notable reductions in demands on the police.

NPCC chair Martin Hewitt commented: “The fall across most of these figures, compared to 2019, shows that we’re still seeing the impact of lockdown, despite the further easing of restrictions in May. That said, we are anticipating crime levels to return to pre-pandemic levels in the coming months, as we did across the summer in 2020.”

He added: “The number of assaults against emergency workers continues to show a troubling rise. This is unacceptable. We will use the full force of the law to prosecute anyone who uses violence against those who are on the frontline. Officers and staff are out in communities, working in challenging circumstances, and I am grateful for their continued hard work.”