Case study: 'Protect The Protectors' campaign results in new legislation

A Police Federation-led campaign to increase maximum sentences for people who assault emergency workers resulted in a new law that will double the length of jail time for offenders from the current maximum of six months.

The 'Protect the Protectors' campaign resulted in doubling maximum sentences for assaults on emergency staff (┬ęDANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/GettyImages)

The public affairs team at the Police Federation of England and Wales launched its 'Protect the Protectors' campaign in February.

Its initial aims were tougher sentences for people who assault emergency services workers, better training and equipment, and more accurate data on police assaults.

Launching the campaign, the Federation produced a range of materials, including case studies of assaults on officers who work in forces across the country.

In addition to generating media coverage at launch and creating a petition, the Federation sought the backing of key stakeholders, including the POA (formerly the Prison Officers' Association), British Transport Police and unions.

The Federation’s own data suggests there is an assault on a police officer every four minutes, which it defines as "offenders struggling to get free, wrestling, hitting, kicking or spitting".

Home Office data shows there were 26,000 assaults against police officers in England and Wales and 17,000 against NHS staff in the year to March 2018.

Gaining Parliamentary support

Local branches of the Federation lobbied MPs with case studies and arranged meetings with affected officers to impress upon them the severity and long-term impact of assaults.

It also worked across both houses of Parliament and the Welsh Assembly to increase legislative support for the campaign and produced a three-minute film, uploaded to YouTube, featuring officers giving harrowing accounts of real-life physical and sexual assaults.

The public affairs team worked closely with Holly Lynch MP on a Ten Minute Rule bill – a type of private member’s bill in which an MP can call for a change in the law, in a speech lasting 10 minutes – and later Chris Bryant MP, who went on to introduce a successful private member’s bill.

The Federation’s meetings with Bryant included representatives from unions and the Royal College of Nursing.

The existing six-month maximum sentence for common assault will now be doubled to a year under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, which was given royal assent last month.

The new law, which takes effect on 12 November, will make it a specific criminal offence to assault emergency workers including police, firefighters and paramedics.

Achieving consensus and overcoming challenges

The Federation said the eventual legislation went through various drafts based on feedback from stakeholders, including the Royal College of Nursing and Unison, with differing demands regarding what the new maximum sentence should be.

The team also had to overcome the challenge of inconsistencies in reporting and recording assaults across different emergency services.

Melanie Davies, corporate and campaigns manager at the Federation, told PRWeek: "This was a complicated piece of legislation that went through various drafts, with feedback along the way from a range of representative bodies to try to achieve the best possible outcome for their members."

Builidng on success and internal comms

The Federation said it would build on the success of its campaign by lobbying for the toughest sentences to be imposed, to provide a strong deterrent to assaults. In addition, it will promote the aims of the campaign in the media and in Parliament.

There were also internal comms implications of the legislative win, with the Federation communicating the change to officers and ensuring that its members feel recognised and better protected.

Davies described the internal message as: "Fairness across the board and ensuring members are aware of where they stand, feel supported and that there is consistency with sentencing across the country."

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