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Police Bill: new powers to tackle knife offenders and disruptive protests

A wide ranging Bill introduced into Parliament today seeks to strengthen police powers and officer protection but also places new legal duties to share data with other agencies

After more than a year of campaigning, the government has backed demands from the Police Federation and Chief Constables to increase the jail term to two years for offenders who assault officers.

The commitments, long trailed by Home Secretary Priti Patel, are among the wide range of measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill introduced in Parliament today.

Also in the legislation are the changes needed to enable Special Constables to formally join the Police Federation. Although volunteers they are increasingly doing the same work as full-time officers but do not have the same protections.

The change comes after years of Federation discussions with the Home Office, Association of Special Constabulary Officers (ASCO), the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC). 

Federation Chair John Apter urged fronline officers to "grab this opportunity" to improve working conditions and support the Bill's progress.

Also included in the legislation is the Police Covenant, which is the result of a joint campaign between Police Oracle and the Police Federation to improve the support for officers injured on the job – and their families.

Similar to the Armed Forces Covenant, it enshrines in law legal duties on physical protection, health and wellbeing. Included is a requirement on the Home Secretary to report annually to Parliament on progress with the covenant.

In detail

Changes for the Service include:

Also included in the bill are longer jail terms for serious offences.

These include Whole Life Orders (WLOs) for child killers, with judges also allowed to impose this punishment on 18-20 year olds in exceptional cases - for example, acts of terrorism which cause mass loss of life.

The Bill also introduces life sentences for killer drivers, ends the automatic halfway release for serious violent and sexual offenders, and ensures community sentences are stricter and better target underlying causes of crime such as mental health issues, alcohol or drug addiction.

The APCC’s Criminal Justice Lead David Lloyd said: “The public needs to have confidence in the criminal justice system, or else they will lose faith in reporting crime. By ensuring those who commit the most serious violent crimes spend the bulk of their sentences in prison, we send a clear message that we are on the side of victims.

“But we must look to reduce re-offending through more effective community sentences, for lower level offenders where they are appropriate.”

The raft of measures was welcomed by the National Chair of the Police Federation, John Apter.

He said: “This Bill contains a number of important changes we have been campaigning for over many years to give greater protection to police officers, and recognise the unpredictable, dangerous and demanding job they do.  

“This is the first step to bring these changes into law; we must grab this opportunity and ensure the Bill brings about a positive, meaningful and tangible difference for our colleagues."

He added enabling Specials to join the Fed would give them greater protection: "As a former Special myself, this is something I have been very passionate about.

"This is only right, Specials carry a warrant card and carry the same risk as regular officers, I’m proud that the Federation is opening its doors to them as members." 

But he also warned that ministers would have to work effectively with the Sentencing Council to ensure the new laws on assaulting officers were used effectively by a court system that is at breaking point.

He said: "It is absolutely the right decision to see the maximum sentence being doubled, as the original tariff has proved completely ineffective. However, this increase in sentencing will mean nothing unless the sentencing guidelines are updated and made fit for purpose."  

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