Belfast Telegraph

Fury as thug who hit police woman gets mere £150 fine

Calls have been made for tougher sentences for those convicted of attacking police officers after a thug was fined just £150 for punching a policewoman.

Terry Spence of the Police Federation said the small fine given to the Londonderry man had “raised a few eyebrows”.

He said there was a “failure to deal with attackers robustly”.

And East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell (right) said that jail should be the norm, rather than the exception, for those who attack members of the emergency services.

Stephen Kelly (19) of Bellevue Avenue admitted disorderly behaviour and assaulting a police officer at Limavady Magistrates’ Court this week.

The court was told that on November 25 last year police patrolling Catherine Street in Limavady came upon two men fighting — one of whom was Kelly.

When they intervened to break up the fight Kelly punched the female officer in the face.

As Kelly was being arrested, he struggled violently with police.

Deputy District Judge Mervyn Bates said that he did not believe Kelly’s offence had crossed the threshold necessary to jail him. He fined him £150 and bound him over to be of good behaviour on his own recognisance of £500 for a period of 18 months.

According to the Police Federation — which represents rank and file officers — the number of attacks on PSNI officers far exceeds those in Great Britain.

“The federation is seeking a tougher sentencing policy against attacks on police officers,” said Mr Spence.

“It sees a failure in dealing with attackers robustly, which is encouraging disrespect towards the police service and contributing to a less supportive attitude among the public.”

Mr Campbell said he believed that in most circumstances there should be a custodial sentence for those attacking any member of the emergency services.

“I do think, as a general rule, people would like to see very stringent punishment to people who are convicted of attacks on those maintaining order,” said the DUP man.

“I think in most circumstances a custodial sentence or a suspended sentence would certainly mark the severity, rather than a comparatively light fine.”

A defence solicitor said that Kelly had been out celebrating his birthday and had consumed a lot of alcohol before the assault. He said his client had apologised for his actions.

Chair of the Police Federation, Terry Spence — which represents some 7,000 police officers of all ranks including part-time staff — said the level of attacks on officers was “appalling”.

“Is it any wonder we have violence on the streets at the weekends?

“The sheer level of attacks on police officers in Northern Ireland is absolutely appalling,” he said.

Speaking at the organisation’s annual conference earlier this year he said officers also faced a range of physical pressures — including falling victim to serious assaults while out on duty.

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