We are currently experiencing network problems with the desktop version of Police Oracle. We hope to have these resolved as soon as possible.

Call to extend Harper’s Law to Northern Ireland

An online petition to increase sentences for those who attack emergency workers has been backed by the PFNI.

A call has been made for tougher sentences for those who attack emergency workers in Northern Ireland amid a rising number of assaults in the region.

More than a thousand people have signed a petition which asks for increased sentences for those convicted of assaults on emergency services staff, as well as a legislative amendment which would change what is classed as a deadly weapon.

These requests are part of a wider push to get Harper’s Law, which introduces mandatory life sentences for anyone convicted of killing an emergency worker, extended to Northern Ireland.

It went on the statute book for England and Wales last June.

The Northern Ireland campaign was started by a former health service nurse Bernadette Vassallo and has since been backed by the PFNI.

Last month, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said the number of assaults resulting in injury to officers had hit a five-year high, from 516 recorded between April 2018 and March 2019, to 923 from April 2022 to February 2023.

The next most-targeted group are Ambulance Service workers, with 508 targeted in 2021, which went up to 648 in 2022.

Last week police officers in Londonderry were attacked by youths with masonry during a search operation.

Police Federation Northern Ireland secretary Damian Walsh said the effect of the assaults on can be significant.

“We need real deterrents to curb this growing and worrying trend of assaults on our officers,” he told the PA news agency.

“We have officers who are kicked, punched, bitten and left with broken bones and lacerations.

“The effect on an officer can be significant. Many have to take time off work to recover from their injuries. That, in turn, puts added pressure on colleagues and are left to take up the slack.”

Mr Walsh said they feel tougher sentences would deter the assaults.

“We look to the courts to take action. In our terms, that must mean tougher sentencing guidelines for assailants. A fine or a suspended sentence for assaulting a police officer on a street is simply not good enough,” he said.

“Would-be attackers have to know that if they strike an officer they can expect to go to jail. As it stands, these people have no respect for officers and aren’t deterred by the punishments that are meted out.

“There has got to be zero-tolerance. An attack on a police officer is not part of the job, but rather it’s an assault on our justice and law and order system.

“Things have got to change before this problem gets any worse.”

The petition calling for the extension of Harper’s Law to Northern Ireland can be found here. 

Leave a Comment
View Comments 1
In Other News
Andrew Harper “would be immensely proud” as law comes into effect
Scotland urged to create its own Harper's Law
Interview: Lissie Harper
Officer’s widow to retire from public life after securing Harper’s Law
More News