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Assaulted police officer backs calls for harsher sentences against those who attack emergency workers

PUBLISHED: 06:00 12 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:09 12 February 2018

PC Gilder was carrying out public order patrols in Kings Lynn town centre last summer when he was knocked unconscious in an unprovoked attack. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary.

PC Gilder was carrying out public order patrols in Kings Lynn town centre last summer when he was knocked unconscious in an unprovoked attack. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary.

Norfolk Constabulary.

A policeman who had his wrist broken twice after being assaulted is today backing calls for harsher sentences against those who attack officers.

Andy Symonds, chairman of Norfolk Police Federation. Picture Andy SymondsAndy Symonds, chairman of Norfolk Police Federation. Picture Andy Symonds

PC Sam Burton was left needing hospital treatment last month after being assaulted while trying to arrest a wanted man in Bowthorpe.

It took place just 14 months after he was attacked in a pub car park while on duty, leaving him with a broken wrist.

Now off work due to his injury, the 26-year-old beat manager for Norwich west wants more to be done to protect front-line emergency staff.

MORE: Policewoman pushed over and kicked in stomach while patrolling Prince of Wales Road

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

It comes as six police officers were assaulted in Norfolk on Friday night, with one sergeant being punched in the face.

Last week, another officer in King’s Lynn suffered a broken shoulder after being attacked.

Andy Symonds, chairman of the Norfolk Police Federation, said around 22 officers have been assaulted while on duty since January 1 this year.

The federation, along with chief constable Simon Bailey, and police and crime commissioner Lorne Green, have renewed calls for new legislation to better protect officers.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve AdamsChief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve Adams

Mr Burton, who has been a police officer five years, was responding to an incident at the Prince of Denmark Pub on Denmark Road, Norwich, in November 2016 when he was attacked.

“I was arresting one male who had been in a car, when another male came at me from behind and threw me around the car park,” Mr Burton said.

“I deployed my PAVA spray, but that had little effect and he came back at me. I just thought ‘oh no, here we go’.

“It was a Sunday afternoon, everyone had been drinking [at the pub] and I was just waiting for someone else to come and join in.

“There were lots of people there, and I remember thinking ‘why doesn’t anyone help’.”

At some point during the scuffle, before back-up arrived, Mr Burton said he broke his left wrist.

It resulted in him being off work until mid-January, and he did not return to front line policing until March.

Mr Burton said his attacker admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm and was made to pay compensation.

Last month, he suffered a near identical injury while attempting to arrest a wanted man in Bowthorpe.

“I went to arrest him and he didn’t want to come with us,” Mr Burton said. “There was a struggle, and afterwards I looked at my wrist it was swollen again.”

He said an X-ray revealed it was fractured and required a cast.

Mr Burton said the courts need to impose stricter punishments against those who attack officers.

“For what we are doing, it does not feel like we are getting the backing from the courts,” he said.

“We don’t report some incidents [of assault against officers] because we know it is not going to go anywhere in court. And if it does, it will be downgraded to resisting arrest.

“They need to come down harder on these people because there is no deterrent anymore.”

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) private members bill is due to go before the House of Commons in April.

The bill, which is now in its report stage, was put forward by Chris Bryant MP. It aims to introduce new offences including malicious wounding, grievous or actual bodily harm and common assault, which are aggravated when carried out against a constable, firefighter, doctor, paramedic, nurse or people assisting them in their duties.

Mr Symonds, from the police federation, said while the increasing number of assaults against officers was concerning, even more worrying was the rising level of violence used.

In Norfolk 390 officers were assaulted between April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 - more than one officer every day of the year.

And over the festive period in 2017, 17 officers were attacked.

He said around eight officers were also awaiting viral test results after being spat at.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: “I am supportive of anything which raises the profile of the scale of the problem.”

Commissioner Lorne Green said the proposed legislation did not go far enough, adding the maximum sentence for assaulting an officer should be five years, rather than the proposed 12 months.

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said: “I support the idea of making punishment more robust for those who attack Norfolk’s emergency workers, and I would be open minded on the exact length of possible future sentence.”

Officer knocked unconscious

PC Ollie Gilder was knocked unconscious in an unprovoked attack in King’s Lynn’s Market Place which was caught on CCTV.

The incident happened after police were called following reports of a fight outside a bar in the summer of 2016.

While PC Gilder spoke to door staff, a man threw a pint of beer over them before running off as the officer dealt with another man.

He said: “It was at this point I heard a member of door staff shout to me ‘watch out’, so I turned around only to be punched by the man who had thrown the beer earlier.

“It knocked me unconscious momentarily. I remember being on the floor and trying to call for assistance on my radio amongst a melee. I managed to handcuff the suspect before other officers arrived to assist.”

PC Gilder suffered bruising and a swollen jaw and went to hospital for scans to make sure nothing had been fractured or broken.

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