One police officer attacked every day

Judges and magistrates have been urged to impose tougher sentences on violent offenders as new figures revealed one police officer is attacked every day on Norfolk's streets.

Judges and magistrates have been urged to impose tougher sentences on violent offenders as new figures revealed one police officer is attacked every day on Norfolk's streets.

A report compiled using the freedom of information act placed the county among the 10 most dangerous areas in the country for bobbies to walk the beat.

There were 394 assaults against officers last year - representing more than one a day. Statistically every officer in Norfolk has been assaulted at some point over the last five years, with 2,035 attacks or 1.3 per officer.

While neither featured in the top ten, there was also a worrying picture in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Since 2002 there were 1,648 in Suffolk and 644 in Cambridgeshire.

The secretary of the Norfolk Police Federation, which represents the rank and file, said he was not surprised by the findings adding that they indicate deteriorating respect for authority. Norfolk police described the attacks as “deplorable” and pledged to take a robust stance towards prosecuting anyone preventing officers carrying out their duties.

Federation secretary David Benfield said: “It is about time people were made to take responsibility for their own actions. This is not something that has happened over night - it has been a problem for years.

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“In the past it was mainly drunken young men but more and more we are seeing women carrying out these attacks. There is also a worrying number of repeat offenders which suggests sentences handed out by the courts are just not working.

“Magistrates do have the power to treat an attack on any public officer as an aggravated assault and pass a stricter sentence. That isn't happening and many of the sentences we are seeing are derisory.”

Mr Benfield said that police chiefs in Norfolk were traditionally good at providing self-defence training and protective equipment but, because of limited government funding and the pressure to meet targets, this is often not the priority it should be.

Jim Keeble, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said: “Our concern is the level of violence experienced. There is now a propensity to carry knives or a bladed weapon.

“The question is where does the deterrent lay? The punishment needs to be enough so that is becomes as socially unacceptable as drink driving.”

A spokesman for Norfolk Police said: “Norfolk constabulary deplores any type of assault on police officers or members of staff. Part of their role is to support, work with and protect the public and we will take action against those people who attack officers and staff to secure a prosecution and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Suffolk police said that since 2000 the amount of working days lost as a result of injuries had fallen by 37pc. “Better training facilities and more protective equipment has had an impact on the figures,” a spokesman said.

The information was released after a request by Grant Shapps, Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield. His report found there have been 126,860 attacks on police officers since 2002. The worst areas were Strathclyde and Central Scotland with 2.7 assaults per officer but there were only six other areas which were more dangerous than Norfolk.

Mr Shapps said: “Many officers are very conscious of the increasing risk of assault and speak of being uncomfortable about the perceived lack of attention to reducing the dangers to serving police officers.

“There have of course been high profile tragic incidents over the last few years and seven deaths as a result of violent attacks which receive a great deal of publicity, but the extent of the danger to our police officers on a daily basis has, until now, remained almost entirely hidden.”