Attacks on police officers and emergency services personnel are unacceptable and must be met with the toughest possible sentencing by the courts,  according to Nottinghamshire Police Federation chair Simon Riley.

The number of assaults on frontline workers has increased since the pandemic and has sparked a debate on whether harsher penalties for those who commit such offences acts as a deterrent.

Simon said: “Anyone who carries out an assault on a police officer deserves to be punished with the harshest possible sentence. 

“There is never an excuse for attacking an emergency service worker, it is utterly unacceptable.

“We have seen a shocking increase in assaults against police officers across the country over the last couple of years and something has to be done to stop those numbers rising even further.”

The Government will increase the maximum sentence from 12 months to two years for assaults on emergency workers through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.

And judges and magistrates in England and Wales are also being given specific guidance for sentencing offenders convicted of assault on emergency service workers under advice from the Sentencing Council.

Simon said: “Our members have been punched, kicked, spat at and coughed on while trying to do a difficult  job in very challenging circumstances.

“They are brave men and women and they show extraordinary resilience in the face of such aggression and hostility but they are human beings at the end of the day and they do not deserve to be treated like this.

“The message has to be clear: assaulting an emergency services worker, or anyone else for that matter, is totally unacceptable and those who carry out such attacks should expect to face the full weight of the law.”

His comments came after the publication of a report by the charity Transform Justice entitled “Protect the protectors? Do criminal sanctions reduce violence against police and NHS staff?”

The report looked at increased penalties for assaults against emergency workers and suggested this approach was ineffective and did little to reduce the number.

Researchers found two thirds to three quarters of assaults on frontline workers in police custody or in court involved someone with a mental health condition or a cognitive impairment.

The report states: “People with mental health vulnerabilities who are suspected of an offence are significantly more likely to be charged and spend longer in custody than other suspects in the same offence categories. 

“Many if not most of these individuals have long-term, life affecting vulnerabilities that are poorly supported by current services and will not be addressed through prosecution and prison.”

Speaking at the launch of the report, Police Federation national chair Steve Hartshorn said: “I have been assaulted countless times and, to go back to when I first started as a new officer in 1995, there was an ethos then that it was part of the job.

“It was in the early 2000s I think and there was a court case where a judge basically reaffirmed that it was part of the job to get assaulted but it never felt right because everyone has a right to go to work and to be treated properly.”

He added: “It’s the minority of the public that causes these assaults on officers and it does leave lasting effects on police officers.”