Beds Police chiefs call for tougher sentences for attacks on police officers

Beds Police bosses have called for tougher sentences for attacks on police officers after the case of one PC was shown on a television documentary this week.

BBC One’s ‘Critical Incident’ on Monday featured PC Hayley Robinson, a Beds Police officer whose leg was broken when a suspect deliberately rammed her car in Sandy.

Beds Police Federation's deputy chairman Emma Carter, PCC Kathryn Holloway, Federation chairman Jim Mallen and Chief Constable Garry Forsyth

Beds Police Federation's deputy chairman Emma Carter, PCC Kathryn Holloway, Federation chairman Jim Mallen and Chief Constable Garry Forsyth

PC Robinson was injured while responding to reports of concern for an 18-year-old woman in April 2018. During the incident, PC Robinson and a colleague encountered 19-year-old Jack Mitchell behind the wheel of an Audi A5 which then drove at them.

The officers attempted to take cover in their marked police vehicle before they were hit. The collision caused serious injury to PC Robinson, breaking her leg, while the second officer was unhurt.

After evading police and fleeing the county, Mitchell, from Harlow, Essex, was caught and jailed for two years in October 2018.

Beds Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Kathryn Holloway said: “It was a miracle that Hayley and her colleague were not even more seriously injured.

"In just 11 days this Christmas, 14 officers were assaulted in the execution of their duties. How can that be acceptable?

“It's my firm belief that an attack on a police officer is not the same as an assault on any other member of the public, because the police are the front-line between those who keep the law and those who seek to break it.

"Any attack on a police officer should be met with the toughest penalties.

“Even though the law governing assaults on emergency workers was recently raised to a year’s imprisonment from six months, this is still insufficient to act as the sort of deterrent which will stop this violence from happening."

The PCC recently met with a Bedfordshire magistrate to urge them to view footage from officers’ body worn video of assaults to get the true picture before sentencing.

She said: "It’s my firm belief that if they saw it for themselves, they would have a far clearer idea of how unacceptable the violence actually was which could affect sentencing."

Bedfordshire Police also enhanced the support for officers following an assault by introducing ‘Maggie’s Law’, which is named after the daughter of PC Jon Henry, who was killed on duty in Luton in June 2007. Anyone who is assaulted while on duty receives direct contact from a member of the chief officers' team to check on their welfare and to offer any support which is needed.

Officers are urged to complete Victim Impact Statements for the courts to consider at the time of sentencing and the Chief Constable also completes an Impact Statement to reinforce the officer’s own.

Beds Police Chief Constable Garry Forsyth added: “Police officers run towards danger when others might turn the other way. That selfless, public duty is imperative in policing, and it is only right that they are given protection by the courts.

“Bedfordshire Police is committed to supporting our officers and staff and shows an enhanced duty of care, with every assaulted officer given personal contact from a chief officer, and they are provided with a supporting statement for court.

“As we encourage more people to join policing with the national uplift, it is crucial that they understand the support the Force gives to our officers and staff. We will not tolerate any assault on our workforce.”

Bedfordshire Police is set to recruit an additional 54 officers by 2021 in the first phase of the national drive to bring in 20,000 more officers over the next three years. This is in on top of those being recruited to fill existing vacancies and an extra 60 Police Constables being created this financial year through the Commissioner's council tax precept rise and Home Office funding.

The PCC has also been instrumental in securing extra Government grants worth more than £8million since 2018 to tackle gun and gang crime, and continues to lobby for a fairer funding deal for the county.

Chairman of Bedfordshire Police Federation, Jim Mallen said: "For too long police officers have become the physical and verbal punch bags of society. The sheer number of assaults and levels of violence that police officers face is now beyond the pale. Dozens of men and women are working on the front-line and being assaulted every single day.

"Our courts should be handing out appropriate sentences for perpetrators who choose to attack police officers. The punishment must fit the crime and police officers must have faith in the Criminal Justice System. As a society we need to protect the protectors."