Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PPC), Kathryn Holloway, has called for tougher penalties for those who assault police officers in the line of duty.
Commissioner Holloway said: “Policing is facing more severe demand than ever before. Our officers do an incredibly difficult job and I wouldn’t be doing my own if I didn’t consider the protection of our officers, in order to protect the public, as an absolute priority.”
Her comments come after reports in the Bedford Independent and a recent Channel 5 documentary that highlighted an incident where a man was fined just £120 after punching a Bedfordshire Police officer in the face.
PC Hayley Hunter was hit in the face after she and a colleague dealt with the drunk man who had been thrown out of a Bedford Pub, she said: “It is only afterwards, when the adrenaline has worn off and you play things over in your mind that you think, ‘Wow, what did I just go through? Could he have used that knife against us?’
“I don’t think it mattered to him that I was wearing a uniform, or that I was a woman.”
National figures show that on average a police officer is attacked every 20 minutes.
Now Commissioner Holloway says she is backing her front-line officers and wants tougher punishments for those who assault police officers.
“I know Hayley well and the bitter irony of this assault is that, as a member of the Community Cohesion Team, she is out in our county every working day building better relationships and trust in policing.” said the PCC.
“Awards of less than £100 as compensation after an attack like this, and that on Hayley’s colleague, are derisory.
“In my view, an attack on a police officer is not the same as an assault on any other member of the public, because the police are standing on the front-line between those who keep the law and those who want to undermine it.
“That’s why an attack on an officer should be met with the toughest penalty possible.
“It’s why I called on a cross party basis for support for extending the prison term for assaulting an officer in the execution of their duty last year.
“Since this is now still only a year, despite a change in the law, it’s still wholly insufficient in my view.
In November, the PCC won a Home Office Special Grant for £4.571m to cover the unprecedented cost of fighting gang, gun and knife crime in Bedfordshire.
Commissioner Holloway added: “It’s a stated priority in my Police and Crime Plan to look after our officers to the best of my ability, otherwise, how can they be expected to be able to protect people and fight crime across this county.
“It’s why I’ve had discussions with our judges about penalties in their courts and am seeking to do likewise with our magistrates.”