'Alarming' number of assaults on police during pandemic
Assaults on police declined only fractionally in Suffolk over the last 12 months – despite people being largely confined to their homes.
The organisation representing officers in Suffolk called it "despicable" that some had sought to weaponise Covid-19 during that time.
Home Office figures showed there were 435 assaults on police across Suffolk in the year ending March 31 – a less than 4% fall from 452 in the previous 12 months.
In that time, 81 assaults resulted in an officer suffering injury, compared to 91 over the previous period.
The number of assaults peaked at 462 the year before – having almost doubled from 275 in 2014/15.
Darren Harris, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said: "It is tempting to welcome what is, in fact, a slight decrease in the number of assaults on the police officers serving our county.
“However, we must bear in mind that, while there has been a small drop in attacks on officers, these figures are for a period when, to all intents and purposes, we were in the midst of a pandemic and therefore there were significant periods when we were in lockdown.
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“What we have seen during the last 16 months is that, despite restrictions on people going out, the closure of pubs and nightclubs, police officers have continued to be subjected to an alarming number of assaults while carrying out their duties, serving and protecting the public, during some of the most challenging times any of us have known.
“I find it particularly despicable that some individuals have sought to weaponise Covid-19 by spitting and coughing over officers while claiming to have the virus, and we have seen an increase in these attacks."
Last September, the government announced plans to double the maximum sentence for an assaulting emergency worker – just two years after a previous change in the law doubled the maximum term from six to 12 months in prison.
The sentence was introduced under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act following the Protect the Protectors campaign, led by the Police Federation of England and Wales.
Mr Harris has previously called for the courts to put more weight on the aggravating features of the offence and use the full force of available sentencing.
"The aim of this increase in sentence was not just to punish those who carried out these attacks but also to deter others," he said.
“Sadly, all too often, we are still seeing the courts handing out little more than a slap on the wrists and this is not helping us.
"No one should be assaulted for doing their job and we need the courts to use the sentencing powers available to them to ensure that we get this message across.
"These attacks cannot be allowed to continue. Offenders should feel the full weight of the law.
"More has to be done to protect those who protect their communities.”