Courts urged to use new guidance on sentences for officer assaults

Dyfed Powys Police Federation secretary Roger Webb is calling on judges and magistrates to ensure maximum sentences are imposed on offenders convicted of assaulting officers after new guidelines were published.

Roger welcomed the move by the independent Sentencing Council but said the guidelines had to be used to their full extent in the courts when they come into force in July.

He said: “Of course, we welcome these new guidelines but for them to be effective we need to see magistrates and judges following them. Police officers seem to have been society’s punchbags for too long and since the pandemic we have seen some individuals seeking to weaponise Covid-19 by spitting or coughing over them.

“Tougher sentences should be used to punish these offenders but also send out a clear message to others that these attacks will not be tolerated.”

The revised guidelines were issued by the Sentencing Council after the Police Federation’s Protect the Protectors campaign sparked a change in the law which doubled the maximum sentence for assaults on police officers and other emergency service workers from six to 12 months.

The Government has pledged to increase the maximum sentence from 12 months to two years for assaults on emergency workers through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is currently at the committee stage in Parliament.

The new advice includes factors classed as “high culpability”, such as the “intention to cause fear of serious harm, including disease transmission” in common assault cases, as well as intentional coughing or spitting in both common assault and ABH offences.

Police Federation national chair John Apter said: “During the last few years, we have been highlighting to the Sentencing Council the dangers officers face and our serious concern about some perverse sentences, which has seen people walking from the court after some vicious attacks on our colleagues.

“It’s good to see that the Sentencing Council has taken on board our views about assaults on police, including the vile acts of spitting and weaponising Covid, and these revised guidelines are a step in the right direction. 

“What we need to see now is judges making full use of the flexibility the guidelines provide to ensure that the sentence handed down reflects the seriousness and gravity of the crime.

“We will be watching closely to ensure we see a reduction in perverse sentences which result in thugs who attack emergency workers walking free from court with little more than a slap on the wrist.”