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Call for 'meaningful' sentences for those who attack police officers


Police officers are often the subject of physical or verbal attacks, it is claimed

Police officers are often the subject of physical or verbal attacks, it is claimed

Police officers are often the subject of physical or verbal attacks, it is claimed

Eight out of 10 police officers in Northern Ireland were either physically or verbally attacked over the last year, it has emerged.

Of those assaulted, 91% were victims of unarmed physical assaults, including wrestling, hitting and kicking, a survey by the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) has found.

The federation, which represents rank and file officers, has warned violence against officers is "widespread" and has demanded mandatory jail terms for those convicted of serious assaults against police.

Addressing the PFNI's 45th annual conference chairman Mark Lindsay said the Government can no longer view attacks on officers as less serious than assaults on members of the public and called for a "fundamental reappraisal in sentencing".

"An inability or reluctance to hand down meaningful sentences will merely serve to further undermine the rule of law and damage society as a whole," he added.

According to the survey, almost half of those officers who took part said they had to deal with being threatened or assaulted with an offensive weapon such as a stick or bottle, and 13% were assaulted with a deadly weapon, including a firearm.

Police statistics show between 2012 and 2016, there have been 3,118 crimes of assault against a police officer, Mr Lindsay said.

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He also warned policing in the region is at "crisis levels" due to austerity measures.

Recently Chief Constable George Hamilton revealed the organisation is facing a £20 million cut in funds this year and a reduction in officer numbers.

Mr Lindsay warned policing in the region is "under attack from a Government that refuses to acknowledge that continued austerity and the denial of essential resources will have such a damaging effect on policing and society that could take generations to restore.

"In 2017, we find ourselves heavily depleted and under-financed at a time of rising demand, a continuing severe threat from murderous dissident groupings and more complex crime.

"By the time we gather for our conference next year, there's a very real possibility that the PSNI will be downsized to below the worrying figure of 6,600 recently quoted by Mr Hamilton.

"We're now beyond the point of warning of a crisis. Right now, we're in the middle of a crisis," said Mr Lindsay.

Mr Lindsay said politicians from all sides must make a stand "against this madness of continuing austerity".

"Austerity has inflicted great damage on policing in Northern Ireland, and it must come to an end.

"Instead of a fixation with budgets and cuts, think of the men and women who are out there day and daily policing a society that is still fractured.

"A society that is crying out for a visible police service delivering for each and every citizen who wants nothing more than to get on with their lives and live in peace," he said.

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