Crime chief urges automatic jail time for criminals who attack police officers

Criminals who attack police officers should go to jail, “no ifs, no buts”, a crime chief has said as she called for tougher sentences on perpetrators.

Katy Bourne, the new chairwoman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), spoke out after Pc Andrew Harper was killed while responding to reports of a burglary in Berkshire.

The 28-year-old Thames Valley Police officer died on duty from multiple injuries after being dragged under a vehicle near the village of Sulhamstead on August 15.

Mrs Bourne’s comments come as the National Police Chiefs’ Council called on senior officers across the country to gather for an urgent summit next month to discuss what more can be done to protect officers.

In her first interview since taking on the role, Mrs Bourne told the PA news agency: “If you attack a police officer, you need to know you will go to prison; no ifs, no buts.

“I think a strengthening of the sentences there would be very welcome. I’m sure the public feel exactly the same.

“How have we come (to a point) as a society to the fact where we almost accept this every day?”

Katy Bourne
The new chairman of the Association for Police and Crime Commissioners Katy Bourne (PA)

Mrs Bourne – who also sits on the Prime Minister’s recently formed National Policing Board and is the police and crime commissioner for Sussex – is keen to see the Home Office push through plans for a police covenant, which intends to demonstrate the Government’s support of officers.

And she thinks more should be done to acknowledge the bravery of officers.

Mrs Bourne branded the rise in assaults on officers in her own “relatively safe, peaceful” county as “unacceptable”, saying this showed the scale and severity of the problem.

Over the last four years the number of Sussex officers injured in attacks has risen by 16%, she said, adding that there were more than 1,000 assaults alone last year – averaging three a day.

She added: “You don’t join police to be assaulted, you join police to protect your community.

“We look to them to protect us.

“If we are averaging three a day in Sussex and we are meant to be a relatively safe, peaceful county it just shows you that the violence on the streets is unacceptable.

“We shouldn’t accept it but also when we do catch people I think the sentencing needs to be reflective of the seriousness of the crime.”

Pc Harper is the first officer to be killed in action since March 2017, when unarmed Pc Keith Palmer was stabbed by Khalid Masood during the Westminster Bridge terror attack.

On Friday his family said their “lives and hearts have been torn apart” as they were joined by his colleagues and forces around the country to observe a minute’s silence in his honour a week since his death.

More than £270,000 has been donated so far in his memory.

His death follows a series of attacks on police officers in recent weeks and the latest figures showed a 27% rise in assaults on Pcs resulting in injury in the last year.

Police officer killed in Sulhamstead
A minute’s silence took place for Pc Andrew Harper on Friday (Steve Parsons/PA)

This month, Pc Gareth Phillips, a 42-year-old West Midlands Police traffic officer, was run over by a suspected car thief in Birmingham.

The incident came just days after Metropolitan Police constable Stuart Outten, 28, was left with head and hand injuries after challenging a motor offences suspect allegedly armed with a machete in Leyton, east London.

According to the Office for National Statistics there were 10,399 incidents recorded between April 2018 and March this year – 2,242 more than the 8,157 for the same period the previous year.

Since last year, the maximum jail term for people who attacked emergency services was increased from six to 12 months.

The attacks prompted renewed calls from the Police Federation for chief constables to allow more officers to carry a Taser.

On Tuesday Northampton Police chief constable Nick Adderley announced his force would become the first in Britain to issue Tasers to officers as standard because the risk they face on the job had risen “dramatically”.

A day later Durham Police’s new chief constable Jo Farrell said her staff will be issued with Tasers if they want one.

Mrs Bourne said: “Some of my colleagues would like to see all officers given Taser as standard – that debate’s still obviously going on.

“I think those officers who are capable of passing examples to carry it should be able to.

“I’ve seen how powerful it can be in just de-escalating the violence.

“It should be a police chief’s decision – it’s an operational issue. But I do support those carrying it.”

She backed the widespread use of officers carrying body-worn video, adding: “That should be mandatory.”

In her year-long role as APCC chairwoman, Mrs Bourne will be part of the committee overseeing the roll-out of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge of 20,000 more police officers.

She praised the new Government’s “commitment” to improving policing and welcomed the “pace of change”.

Mrs Bourne hopes to soon meet with the Home Secretary Priti Patel to discuss ideas for tackling knife crime, including proposing more widespread use of a prevention programme adopted in Sussex.

She has also pledged to continue working on measures to protect stalking victims, branding the lack of recognition of the crime by police forces around the country as “woeful”.

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