Number of violent attacks on Yorkshire police officers soars in a year

More protection needed for staff of our emergency services
More protection needed for staff of our emergency services

VIOLENT ATTACKS on police in Yorkshire rose last year – with almost 2,000 incidents of abuse in 2017.

The figures have been revealed ahead of the third reading of the Assaults on Emergency Workers Bill, which proposes harsher punishments on those who attack emergency staff.

Over the last two years, forces in West, South and North Yorkshire, plus Humberside Police, recorded 2,471 incidents of physical and verbal abuse against police staff – 603 in 2016 and 1,868 in 2017. The true figure will be even higher, as South and West Yorkshire were not able to provide figures for the full period.

West Yorkshire Police saw 2,061 incidents of abuse of its staff last year.

Deputy Chief Constable John Robins said it had introduced spit and bite guards and body-worn cameras for officers, and has annual training on physical and verbal techniques that could be used to diffuse a violent situation.

But despite preventative measures, attacks continue, and Mr Robins said so far this year his officers had been driven at, racially abused, and one even suffered a 3cm gash beneath his eye after he was hit by a 2ft metal crowbar.

The force has also worked with unions, victims charities and MIND on “an array” of support for officers.

He said: “At the end of the day, they step forward when others step away and it’s a difficult job.

“The most frustrating part for officers is the totally unnecessary abuse - when they are being spat at, punched and kicked, and the effects it has on them and their families. All of them have children, families, and partners, who they need to go home to and explain what has happened to them at work. For them, it can be devastating.”

Halifax MP Holly Lynch said the statistics made her “more determined than ever to see this law go through”.

The region’s Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said the Government must make time to ensure this bill goes through.

“It’s sad that we are having to do this, but it has reached a point where it needs to be done,” he said.

Nick Smart, chairman of West Yorkshire Police Federation, which has campaigned in support of the bill, said: “It’s no longer a question of if, but when, we will see a fatality.”

A Government spokesman said assaults on emergency workers were “unacceptable”, and that the increase in penalties through the bill would “send a clear message that these attacks will not be tolerated.”

The Bill...

* The Assaults on Emergency Workers Bill creates a statutory aggravating factor, which means that when a person is convicted of an assault, the judge must consider the fact it was committed against an emergency worker as an aggravating factor meriting an increase in the sentence within the maximum allowed for the particular offence.

* It will cover assaults and related offences including: common assault, ABH, GBH, and manslaughter.

* The maximum allowed for common assault will be increased from six months to 12 months.

* To be considered under these provisions, the offence must be committed against the emergency worker in the exercise of their duties.

* The Bill will cover emergency workers, this includes police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and certain healthcare workers including ambulance personnel.