Northern Ireland

Police Federation: Anyone found guilty of attacking an officer should be jailed

Police officer
Image caption Last year 577 police officers were injured by some form of assault

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland is calling for anyone found guilty of assaulting a police officer to be sent to prison.

Last year 577 police officers were injured by some form of assault.

That is an average of almost 50 attacks a month on almost 20% of all front-line police officers.

The Police Federation says tougher action is needed because fines and non-custodial sentences for some offences are not sufficient deterrents.

Scuffles

Serious injuries are a regular occurrence for officers during riot situations.

But many also suffer less serious injuries when pushed, punched or kicked during scuffles with crowds.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) says politicians and the courts must do more to protect them.

Image caption The association has defended its bid to give police officers more protection than members of other emergency services

It has has written to the Stormont executive asking for a mandatory custodial sentence for anyone found guilty of assaulting a police officer and wants the new legislation to be part of the next programme for government.

"The PFNI find this totally unacceptable and feel that a greater deterrent is required to protect officers," the submission says.

Danger

The association has defended its bid to give police officers more protection than members of other emergency services.

"Assaults on public servants such as hospital staff and teachers are equally abhorrent, but we would contend that policing is unique, in so much as, police officers are frequently required to put themselves in danger to protect society," the submission says.

"In recognition of the unique expectation, a specific offence of assault on police exists in statute.

Challenges

"We would submit that there should be a mandatory custodial sentence for any person found guilty of the summary or indictable offence of assault on police.

"It would be the hope that this would send out a clear message to society that it is unacceptable to resort to violence against police and would also show the intent of government to protect officers carrying out their duty."

No other police force in Europe has the kind of legal protection the federation is asking for.

But it says the "unique" challenges faced by the PSNI and the high proportion of officers injured in the line of duty each year means tougher laws are justified.