‘Courts must get tough on officer assaults’

Dyfed Powys Police Federation chair Gareth Jones says it’s essential front-line workers have the full support of the criminal justice system to send out the message that attacks on them are unacceptable.

Gareth was speaking after new figures from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) show there was a 29 per cent increase in assaults on emergency services workers in the four weeks to August 30 compared to the same period in 2019.

The NPCC said: “It is thought the rise may be driven by increases in common assaults on police constables, including suspects spitting on officers while claiming to be infected with Covid-19.”

Gareth responded: “It’s absolutely appalling to see so many of our colleagues being attacked just for doing their job. Our members have been on the front-line along with other key workers throughout the Covid-19 crisis keeping the public safe and protecting the NHS and to see them treated like this is sickening.

“One attack is too many, but a 29 per cent increase in the middle of a pandemic and to see coronavirus being weaponised against them is truly shocking.

“It’s essential they have the full backing of the criminal justice system when it comes to assaults on them, and that the courts use the maximum sentences available to them to send out the clear message that these attacks will not be tolerated.”

The NPCC figures show that crime trends have returned close to pre-lockdown levels. After a 28 per cent reduction at the height of lockdown, police recorded crime is now three per cent lower than in the same period in 2019.

Mental health incidents were up five per cent in this reporting period, the NPCC said, reported rape saw a four per cent rise and domestic abuse incidents increased by seven per cent.

John Apter, the national chair of the Police Federation, said: “The recent return to pre-Covid crime levels comes as no surprise, as during lockdown there were fewer people out and therefore less opportunities to commit crime.

“Regrettably, I am not surprised either to see the rise in the number of call outs for mental health incidents. This has been steadily increasing year on year and the police are often seen as the first port of call when people need help.

“My colleagues will continue to do their job to the best of their ability but, as I have said many times before, there is no magic box of extra officers waiting to be opened, and undoubtedly policing will struggle with this increased demand.”