[1st Allocated Day]

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:49 pm on 15th March 2021.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department 5:49 pm, 15th March 2021

There are many important points that I would be happy to debate about the police covenant and giving our police officers—the frontline men and women who keep us safe day in, day out—the protection that they and their family members deserve. The hon. Gentleman is right about the sentencing structure and guidance, but we have had support from the Crown Prosecution Service regarding the assaults that I have referred to, particularly over the last few months in relation to coronavirus, when we have seen spitting and assaults on officers.

This Bill is a criminal justice Bill as much as a policing Bill. It is an end-to-end Bill to ensure that the sentence fits the assault and the crime. The Bill will double the maximum penalty for assaults on emergency workers from 12 months’ to two years’ imprisonment, recognising that our officers and emergency workers should rightly be protected. Having spent much time with those on the frontline and seen the impact and the sheer volume of these incidents, I think it is right that we have that provision in this Bill.

The Government fully recognise the professionalism and skills of our highly trained police officers, and that includes the specialism of police drivers. Too often, they are driving in high-pressure situations pursuing suspects on the road while responding urgently to incidents. Through this Bill, we will introduce a new test to assess a police officer’s standard of driving. Should an officer be involved in a road traffic incident, this new test will allow the courts to judge their standard of driving against that of a competent and careful police constable with the same level of training, rather than that of a member of the public, which is how it stands at present.

The Government back the police and will never allow those with an extreme political agenda, such as those calling for the defunding or abolition of the police, to weaken our resolve when it comes to protecting the police. We back the police and will do everything we possibly can to make our community safer.

I have heard the call of the British public for safer communities, and that means cracking down on violent crime, which has a corrosive impact on towns and cities across the country. That includes gangs peddling drugs, as a result of which law-abiding citizens live in fear and, tragically, teenage children are stabbed to death. This senseless violence has absolutely no place in our society.