‘Disgusting’ surge in assaults on emergency staff, figures show

One of the country’s most senior police officers has said he is “disgusted” at a surge in recorded assaults against emergency services workers in England and Wales.

Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said constabularies would “use the full force of the law” to prosecute those accused of striking police officers, ambulance workers and fire crews.

His comments came after latest figures showed the number of incidents in a four-week period rose by almost one-third compared with the same period last year.

The figures, for the 28-day period in England and Wales to August 2 – and marking the first data since pubs in England were allowed to reopen from July 4 – show recorded assaults on emergency workers were up 31% on the corresponding period in summer 2019.

It comes in stark contrast to the overall picture for England and Wales, which saw a 7% reduction in notifiable crime during this time frame, compared with last year.

Recorded shoplifting, thefts from and involving vehicles, and residential burglaries were all down between 23% and 30%, although recorded rapes were up 2% on the equivalent period last year, data from police forces in England and Wales shows.

Mr Hewitt said: “I am disgusted to see an increase in assaults on emergency service workers who are the front line in protecting us all, including from this deadly virus.

“We will use the full force of the law to prosecute anyone who uses violence against those who are on the front line.”

The latest crime trends update – the fifth since lockdown restrictions were introduced – indicates certain crime trends are returning towards pre-lockdown levels when compared with last year’s data.

Previous reporting showed a 28% reduction for the four weeks to April 12, a 25% fall for the four weeks to May 10, an 18% fall in the four weeks to June 7, and a 12% fall in recorded crime for the four weeks to July 5.

The 7% fall in the latest bulletin continues the trend that recorded crime is getting closer to 2019 levels.

Mr Hewitt said: “One consequence of the restrictions was the reduction in crime.

National Police Chiefs’ Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners joint summit
National Police Chiefs’ Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners joint summit

“Sadly, we are now seeing crime getting closer to the levels we saw in 2019.

“Police forces are busy tackling and preventing crime and providing a policing service to their communities, while continuing to play their part in the national effort to limit the spread of coronavirus.”

Meanwhile, separate data shows 18,683 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were issued under new coronavirus laws in England and Wales between March 27 and August 17, although only 46 were issued in the last four weeks.

Some 38 notices were issued for people not wearing a covering on public transport, while eight related to not wearing a covering in a shop.