Belfast Telegraph

Almost 3,000 assaults a year on PSNI officers

Police officers in Northern Ireland suffer an average of 3,000 assaults a year, according to new figures.

Statistics obtained by BBC NI via a Freedom of Information request show there has been 17,248 recorded assaults on PSNI officer since 2012.

This is compared to 2,278 assaults on ambulance staff and 677 assaults against fire and rescue service personell.

Assaults can range from being spat on or shoved, to being punched or beaten up.

There has been several high profile attacks on police officers in Northern Ireland in recent years.

In September last year, officers came under attack with bricks and bottles thrown by a crowd of 30 drunken youths during disturbances in Portadown.

Two months later, officers were targeted by a masked gang of up to 40 people in Larne.

Bottles, fireworks and a petrol bomb, which failed to ignite, were thrown during the trouble, which police said was "orchestrated and carried out by a criminal gang under the badge of the south east Antrim UDA".

One serving police officer said members of the public just see a "faceless uniform" and not the person.

"I've been punched, kicked, bitten, had things thrown at me, been hit by bottles," he told the BBC.

"Members of the public have spoken to me saying: 'You're a police officer, that's what you signed up for.' That's not what I signed up for. It's part of the job, I understand that, but we're people too.

"I have to go home at the end of a shift, I have a family at home that want me to come back. Members of the public just see a uniform, a faceless uniform."

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said the justice system must do more to prevent attacks on police.

"Police officers are out there doing their job protecting society and quite frequently they come across the worst elements of society," he said.

"I think there has to be an element of the criminal justice system taking this more seriously."

Judiciary NI said sentencing was a matter for each judge and is made on the circumstances of each case.

"In calculating the appropriate sentence for the offence, the judge will have considered a range of factors," they added.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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