CIRC 050: General Secretary Update: New Sentencing Guidelines

The POA have campaigned over the last couple of years to ensure when POA members are assaulted that the Courts take it seriously. Our campaign alongside the Police Federation and other Emergency service workers was named “Protect the Protectors”. The campaign received support from cross party politicians and became law. The POA recognised that although new sentencing laws were enacted which we welcomed at the time there also needed to be sentencing guidelines to ensure the judiciary use full sentencing powers.

Judges and Magistrates must use the new sentencing guidelines being introduced in July 2021 to ensure those who assault POA members and other emergency service workers receive the maximum tariff sentences available.

For the first time, judges and magistrates in England and Wales will have specific guidance for sentencing offences of assault on emergency workers thanks to the political lobbying of the POA. That demonstrates that the POA political fund is valuable to allow us to politically campaign with all political parties on your behalf. Many individuals within and outside the POA believe that the POA political fund that we have had for many years and endorsed on numerous occasions by secret ballot is money that we give to the Labour Party for affiliation purposes. Let me be clear the POA political fund rules are enshrined within our Rules and Constitution and does not fund and never has funded affiliation of the Labour Party or indeed any other party for that matter. The POA use the political fund to campaign on your behalf not just on this issue but on a variety of issues including health and safety legislation and employment issues.

The Government in 2016 through the Trades Union Act made it more difficult for unions to maintain political funds as anyone joining the POA or indeed any other trade union must now opt-in to the fund from 2016 and under this legislation we have to put a circular out each year informing our members of their right not to opt-in to political funds. I am pleased that even with these obstacles the majority of our members actually contribute to the fund which assists us in assisting the POA membership on achieving on issues that affect POA members.

This decision on new sentencing guidelines is a major victory but now we need to ensure that judges and magistrates are held accountable and implement the legislation. Following continued lobbying by the POA, the Protect the Protectors campaign triggered a change in law to double the maximum sentence for assaults on Prison Officers and other emergency service workers from six to 12 months.

Following continued lobbying by the POA NEC the Government has pledged to increase the maximum sentence from 12 months to two years for assaults on emergency workers through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which is currently at committee stage in Parliament. The NEC welcome this commitment and whilst we will respond directly to other aspects of the Bill which we oppose for good reason we will keep the POA membership updated as to our input through the Parliamentary stages.

The revised sentencing guidelines for assault offences including attempted murder and common assault, and new guidelines were published on the 27th May 2021 by the sentencing council, which can be found on the link below;

The new guidance gives the POA hope that judges and magistrates in England and Wales take a dim view of assaults on our members and gives the maximum sentences available to ensure POA members are fully protected against those that wish to harm them. The POA NEC will continue our campaign to achieve a zero tolerance to assaults and to ensure maximum sentences are given in the Courts to those individuals that carry out assaults on POA members.

The National Chairman and myself have on numerous occasions in the past 12 months spoken to the Secretary of State and pushed this agenda on your behalf. I am pleased that Mr Robert Buckland QC along with the new Prisons Minister Alex Chalk endorse our views on this important issue. The POA NEC will keep a watchful eye to ensure the judiciary now play their part when individuals are found guilty of assaulting our members.

Yours sincerely

General Secretary

Representing over 30,000 Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers, the POA is the largest UK Union in this sector, able to trace its roots back more than 100 years.