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Anyone who assaults police should receive mandatory jail sentence, insists crime chief

Since last year the maximum jail term for people who attacked 999 services was increased from six to 12 months (stock photo)
Since last year the maximum jail term for people who attacked 999 services was increased from six to 12 months (stock photo)

By Flora Thompson

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?"

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 in his memory.

His death follows a series of attacks on police officers in recent weeks. Latest figures showed a 27% rise in assaults on Pcs resulting in injury.

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 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 same period the previous year.

Since last year the maximum jail term for people who attacked 999 services was increased from six to 12 months.

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