Emergency workers 'need more protection' says North Wales police boss

Reporter:

Alan Davies

Courts should be given greater powers to sentence people who attack members of the emergency services, according to a police boss.

This follows the publication of figures which show a dramatic trebling in the number of assaults on police in North Wales over the past five years.

In 2012 there were just 53 assaults on police in the region, but within a year the number had risen to 91 and by 2015 the figure was 154, a number matched in 2016.

This year there have already been 124 attacks on police officers.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, a former police inspector himself, said the increase was deplorable.

Last month, the Government said it would back a new law under which those who attack emergency workers will face longer sentences.

The Ministry of Justice said it would support the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, which will double the maximum sentence for those who assault police, firefighters and NHS staff while on duty.

The legislation, put forward by former Labour minister Chris Bryant, will also require judges to consider the fact a victim is an emergency worker as an aggravating factor in more serious assaults, on a par with hate crimes.

Arfon Jones said: “These figures are totally unacceptable and stubbornly high and clearly sentencing powers for the courts do not provide sufficient deterrent.

“I am a firm supporter of the Police Federation’s Protect the Protectors campaign,”

Richard Eccles, the secretary of the North Wales Police Federation, welcomed the commissioner’s support.

He said: “Police officers and other blue light services rush to assist the public in the times of greatest need.

“It is clear that the vast majority of the public are appalled when they see or hear about cowardly attacks upon emergency workers.

“The aim of our campaign is to work towards a position whereby assaults are reduced, but equally to ensure that those who still seek to injure emergency workers are punished with suitable sentences by the courts.”

Chris Bryant said such assaults were “plain unacceptable and we politicians must do everything in our power to try and curb this spiral of violence against emergency workers.”

He added: “It is already a specific offence to attack a police officer conducting their duties under Section 89(1) of the Police Act 1996, but that provision is far too weak and has proved ineffective in protecting officers.

“Prosecutions are rare, sentences are extremely lenient - and there is still no legal protection for paramedics, doctors or nurses.”

Mr Bryant went on to say: “I hope this won’t mean lots more people will go to prison, but that people will think long and hard before attacking an emergency worker. We have to stop the violence.”

This year 22 officers in North Wales have been kicked, eight have been punched and five have been bitten, one head-butted and one had an animal set on them.

Denbighshire has seen the most assaults on police up to August 31 this year with 36, with 26 in Conwy and 23 in Gwynedd and so far this year it has cost the force 124 days off in sick leave – last year’s figure was a staggering 673 – and over five years more than 1,500 days have been lost due to attacks.

Email:

alan.davies@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the Free Press

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