Eight police officers attacked every day ‘worrying’ new figures reveal

Eight police officers attacked every day ‘worrying’ new figures reveal

EIGHT police officers are attacked in Northern Ireland every day, new figures reveal.

The shocking statistics have been branded ‘unacceptable’ by Justice Minister Naomi Long.

“Attacks on police officers, indeed attacks on any public servant are totally unacceptable,” she said, in response to the new PSNI figures.

“Everyone deserves to be able to carry out their duties without fear of attack or reprisal and those who carry out such attacks should feel the full force of the law being brought down upon them.”

The figures, released by the PSNI yesterday, show over the last five years, eight police officers per day on average were assaulted while on duty.

Over 2022/23 there were 3,272 assaults on officers reported to the force.

“This is a stark reminder of the difficult situations and challenges that officers’ face every day while simply carrying out their job,” the police force states.

Superintendent Gary Busch, from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Operational Support Department, added: “It’s important to remember that these are not just statistics but they represent real people with families and they don't deserve to be assaulted just for just doing their job.

“We, as a Police Service, are committed to investigating these attacks rigorously, just as we would were it a member of the public.”

The attacks ranged from police officers being spat at, head-butted, kicked, punched and having missiles thrown at them.

As of yesterday (March 4) PSNI Chief Constable Jon Boutcher will provide a statement to case files where officers or staff have been assaulted while on duty, to “highlight how these incidents impact both the individuals involved, and the Service as a whole”.

Liam Kelly, Chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI), said the attacks are “totally unacceptable and take a heavy toll on our men and women”.

“We are not society’s punch bag or a release valve for those who seek to impose themselves and harm and intimidate others,” he added.

“The rate of assaults on officers is worryingly high with official crime statistics recording a total of 3,272 assaults in 2022/2023 of which 971 involved injury.

“This equates to a rise of 7.6% from the previous year in the injury category. There is also an element of internal under reporting so the real levels could be significantly worse.

"Stronger, no-nonsense sentences handed down by the Courts would greatly assist to deter would-be attackers.”

Ms Long has confirmed she plans to introduce legislation to increase sentences for such attacks.

“I intend to bring forward new legislation to reform the law on sentencing by increasing the maximum sentence for such attacks and making serious assaults on front line workers a statutory aggravating factor,” she said.

Mr Lynch has urged the minister to expedite the legislation.

“We would appeal to the Justice Minister to move at pace on increased sentencing guidelines in support of both our officers and our emergency service partners,” he said.

“Our officers do not deserve to be targeted in this manner for simply doing their job.

“They work tirelessly on behalf of this entire community and any assault on them should be viewed as an assault on society overall."