Stronger deterrent called for as assaults on police show little sign of slowing
A law designed to protect emergency workers needs toughening up, according to the body representing the interests of police, following hundreds of attacks in less than a year of its introduction.
The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act came into force last November following more than a year of campaigning by the Police Federation under the 'Protect The Protectors' banner.
It came after Home Office figures showed 341 police assaults took place in Suffolk during 2017.
The law doubled the maximum sentence from six to 12 months' imprisonment and directed courts to consider attacks on emergency workers an aggravating factor.
In the first nine months of the Act, police recorded 220 assaults on constables and 77 assaults on other emergency workers.
About 82% of reported assaults on constables and just 22% of assaults on other emergency workers resulted in charges.
A total of 122 people were arrested under the Act - with just eight facing no further action.
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Darren Harris, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said the government, criminal justice system and courts needed to help send a message that assaults on colleagues were unacceptable.
He called for greater backing to provide the right equipment, powers and deterrents against further attacks.
"An assault on a police officer is an assault on society," he said.
"Police officers are wives, husbands, mothers and fathers - they are not robots and they have every right to go home in one piece at the end of their shifts.
"Yes, we have the Act - but frankly, it's not as strong or punitive as we would like, so we need to send a stronger message that deters people from these acts of violence.
"When officers are attacked, the injuries they suffer are physical, but don't forget the mental health injuries from such an attack. That can not be underestimated.
"Thankfully, we do have the support of the majority of the public as we go out there to keep them safe."
Police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore added: "I was very supportive of the Act and it's disturbing to think a minority of people resort to this disgraceful behaviour against those whose job it is to keep us safe.
"I believe we should take a serious look at increasing the punishment for these offences."