Binge-drinking behind police assaults

Police representatives last night blamed binge drinking and a lack of respect in society for an alarming level of attacks against frontline officers in the region.

Police representatives last night blamed binge-drinking and a lack of respect in society for an alarming level of attacks against frontline officers in the region.

It came as two policemen in Lowestoft were beaten by thugs when they tried to make arrests during separate incidents along the seafront.

One officer was left unconscious, with a broken jaw and serious bruising to his head, while a colleague also suffered head injuries.

Figures released earlier this year under the Freedom of Information Act showed there were more than 3,600 assaults against police in Norfolk and Suffolk during the past five years. With no sign of the trend abating, Norfolk Police Federation secretary David Benfield said: "The whole issue is down to a lack of respect."

And Suffolk's eastern area commander Chief Supt Martin Jelley added: "If there is an opportunity to have a go at police officers, they will do so."

The Lowestoft officer who suffered a broken jaw was hurt as he investigated reports of public order offences in Marine Parade in the town at 10.45pm last Friday. He was taken to the James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, for treatment.

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His colleague suffered bruising and swelling to his head as he tried to make an arrest in Royal Plain at 12.55am on the same day.

Three teenagers, aged 16, 17 and 18, were arrested in connection with the two incidents and have been bailed to return to Lowestoft police station at a later date.

In a letter to the EDP's sister paper, the Lowestoft Journal, Chief Supt Jelley, said: "In both incidents the officers involved were simply doing their job. Policing is often dangerous and difficult work and we shouldn't forget the debt we owe officers for helping to keep our local communities safe."

He told the EDP yesterday that a lack of respect among a minority of the public and the effects of binge-drinking were two reasons for the high level of assaults against the police. "There is an element of people who don't have respect for the police and that sometimes comes out when they have been drinking," he said.

Mr Benfield added: "There is no doubt that alcohol does have an impact on these figures. The main offenders are young males, but it's also worrying to see an increase in the number of females who engage in acts of violence against officers.

"There is no easy solution and it is a social issue. There has to be a long-term responsibility from parents and from the individuals themselves."

Mr Benfield urged the courts and government ministers to do more to protect public service workers as they go about their jobs.

Angela Mercer, secretary of the Suffolk Police Federation, said officers now received more protection from the equipment they carried, but added: "This doesn't take away from the fact that officers could be faced with violent incidents on a daily basis. At times things can be escalated, particularly by alcohol and drug abuse."

Anyone with information about the incidents in Lowestoft should contact Det Insp Angus Moir on 01986 835300 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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