‘Jail them for up to five years’: Norfolk police boss wants tougher sentences for attacks on emergency service workers

Norfolk Police and Crime Commisssioner Lorne Green.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norfolk Police and Crime Commisssioner Lorne Green.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

People convicted of attacking emergency workers, such as police officers and ambulance crews, should get sentences of up to five years, Norfolk's police and crime commissioner has said.

And Lorne Green has written to the county's MPs urging them to back his call for tougher sentences when a bill, which would change the law, comes before the House of Commons in April.

He warned a failure to protect emergency workers could mean 'we risk descending into a state of lawlessness'.

The private members bill would double the maximum sentence for common assault on on-duty emergency workers, from six months to a year.

But Mr Green wants the bill to go even further - with a maximum sentence of up to five years.

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He said tougher sentences were needed because, in the space of 12 months, 390 assaults were recorded against police officers alone.

He said, in 2018, at least 22 assaults were recorded in just the first few weeks.

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The Conservative police and crime commissioner said: 'This is an intolerable situation. We need our police officers and other emergency workers on the front line, not sitting as patients in hospital A&Es.

'We need our police officers and other emergency workers on duty, not absent on sick leave. If such attacks on those who come to work every day to protect us are not treated with the upmost gravity, then we risk descending to a state of lawlessness.

'I consider that we have an important duty as public officials to do all we can to protect our protectors.

'I do not believe that increasing the penalty from six months to 12 months is a sufficient deterrent, nor does it adequately indicate to the community the gravity of the offence.

'In my view, a maximum penalty of five years would be more appropriate, particularly in cases of aggravated assault such as spitting or exchange of blood which could carry the risk of serious illness.'

He has written to MPs hoping they can 'see your way clear to doing what you can amongst your parliamentary colleagues to support this important piece of legislation, and to reinforce the Bill as suggested in this letter.'

On Friday. February 9, six police officers were assaulted in a single night. One of them was a female officer who was pushed over and kicked in the stomach as she patrolled Norwich's Prince of Wales Road.

Andy Symonds, chairman of the Norfolk Police Federation, said last month that there had been an increase in the level of violence towards officers.

He said: 'Officers accept that they work in a role that will see them dealing with people who are agitated, distressed or confused.

'But police officers are not there to act as punch bag for members of the public and if someone assaults a police officer, spits at them or scratches them in any way they should expect a harsh sentence from the courts.

'I've spoken with officers who have been spat at in the face by offenders who have blood in their saliva. Some of these offenders have communicable diseases such as Hep C. Spitting is a truly disgusting and demeaning act which means officers have to go for blood tests and wait for some results for up to six months to find out if they've contracted anything.'

There were 256 assaults on East of England Ambulance Service staff in 2016/17 and chief executive Robert Morton has previously called for tougher sentences.

Speaking in November, he said: 'Ambulance staff save lives and protect the vulnerable. It is totally unacceptable that they face any form of violence or aggression, whether in person or over the phone when they are trying to do their best for our patients.

'We continue to work closely with the police to ensure that action is taken against those who assault our staff. One assault against our staff is one too many.

'Having seen first hand the impact violence and aggression can have on my colleagues, I have in the past and will continue to call for much tougher sentences for people who assault ambulance staff and other emergency workers.'

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