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Sentencing reform must be part of a wider plan to tackle violence

18th September 2020

The Government has announced important sentencing reform that will see the maximum penalty for assaulting an emergency service worker doubled – from one to two years.

There is a widespread problem of violence across the justice and custodial sector with 9,995 assaults on staff in prisons in England and Wales in 2019. A survey of Community members in the privatised justice and custodial sector showed 64 per cent had been assaulted at work.

Responding to the announcement, Adrian Axtell, National Secretary at Community, said:

“It is never acceptable for someone to face abuse or risk assault while at work. This is particularly true of those who are delivering a vital public service and protecting the public.”

“Community members in the justice and custodial sector were clear that this change would go some way to keeping them safe at work. As a union we have long been campaigning for a safer justice sector, and are hopeful that these reforms will help to create a safer workplace for our members. However, to be effective these offences must receive a higher priority for prosecution for the sentence to act as further deterrent. As it stands many crimes committed within the prison environment do not receive an encouraging response from law enforcement agencies, as many perpetrators are already serving lengthy sentences. The lack of response or interest in prosecuting perpetrators leaves our members feeling that their suffering or harm is not recognised.”

“We are encouraged that action is being taken to address violence and assault against emergency service workers. However, this change alone will not solve the situation faced by our members. We urge the Government to continue to listen to our members concerns and work with us to tackle violence and assault against those who work in the justice and custodial sector.”

Community is the recognised union within the privatised justice and custodial sector. You can join us here.

You can find out more about our Safer Justice Sector campaign here.