South Yorkshire police officers 'could become punchbags of society' enforcing Covid-19 rules

South Yorkshire police officers could become ‘punchbags of society’ over the enforcement of new Covid-19 rules, it is feared.

By Claire Lewis
Thursday, 1st October 2020, 9:12 am

South Yorkshire’s Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, has expressed concern that the government expectation of officers to ‘come down like a ton of bricks’ on every Covid breach will put bobbies at risk.

Chairman Steve Kent spoke out after new figures revealed that assaults on emergency service workers rose by 29 per cent in August compared to the same period last year.

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South Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Steve Kent. Picture Scott Merrylees

Mr Kent called for the courts to use their full sentencing powers when dealing with culprits as a deterrent to others.

“The courts clearly need to start applying the sentencing powers they have," he said.

“My concern here is that the trend clearly indicates assaults have been on the rise since Covid has become part of our everyday lives.

“Whilst it’s the job of the police to enforce the restrictions and laws as they come into play, usually chaotically coming into play, the expectation that policing will be in a position to come down hard on all offenders is both unrealistic and very difficult in the real word.

“Our police in the UK need to do and be encouraged to do what we are best at – appealing and being proportionate In our response.

“Again, the very expectation by government that officers will come down like a ton of bricks on every infringement, however minor, exposes our officers and our emergency service colleagues to become the punchbags of society as frustrations will inevitably grow which I worry is going to happen during the difficult winter ahead.

“Now more than ever people who assault emergency service workers need to punished to the full extent of the law and the available sentencing power.”

John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said the rise in assaults on frontline workers is ‘unacceptable and appalling’.

He added: “Being assaulted as a frontline worker, whether that’s police, fire, health or prison, must not be tolerated and those who do so must feel the full weight of the criminal justice system come down on them.”