The BBC figures show that as result of assaults on Police some 494 days were lost in Dyfed-Powys over three years, 568 days in Gwent and 673 days in the South Wales force. Along with the temporary loss of officers who were unavailable for duty there was a knock-on financial cost, which the BBC has estimated to be around £189,800.
This is not good news, as our Welsh Police forces are also under continuing pressure to reduce costs, as part of Con Dem Westminster government's public spending review (which began in 2010) which include an intention to reduce or cut central police funding by 20% by 2015. What this means more locally is that collectively the Welsh Police forces will have to make total savings of £ 96 million – which will mean a loss of jobs (amongst both Police officers and support staff) and a reduction in the service offered to the public.
At least as far as the law is concerned attacking or assaulting a police officer is still seen as an aggravated offence in the eyes of the law, and could carry a custodial sentence of up to six months. Speaking as an ex journalist, who in a previous life spent more than enough time covering Pontypool and Cwmbran magistrates court in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, that was not the case then, and I suspect that it is mostly certainly not the case now.
Now I am not and have never been one of the hang them and flog them brigade (I leave that sort of posturing to lightweight Tories), I and no doubt many people consider it unacceptable when public servants (whether Police Officers, Ambulance service staff and Doctors and Nurses in casualty) are attacked or assaulted while doing their job. What’s needed is a balance be achieved between deterrence and the consequences of an assault and restorative justice?
That said the news that some 10,160 incidents of serious violence were informally dealt with last year (that is almost 12 times the figure from five years ago) has raised more than a few eyebrows. This is apparently contrary to existing Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) guidelines, which recommend that such resolutions should only be used for low-level crime.
The Police it reveals regularly use "community resolutions", which may include an apology or compensation to the victim, instead of prosecutions and cautions, despite ACPO guidelines. Now there are times when for lower level offences the use of "community resolutions" is entirely justified and entirely good sense. What this may suggest is that the criminal justice system is creaking and that any crime statistics produced should be looked at with more than a serious degree of caution if not a serious dose of incredulity.
Now I have had my suspicions about crime statistics (whether UK wide or more local) for a while, I am aware that there is a level of anecdotal dissatisfaction particularly with the police response to what they may perceive as lower level anti social behaviour related crime. The perception rightly or wrongly is that while this type of crime may be less important to our hard pressed police officers it remains important to the residents of various parts of Gwent (and no doubt elsewhere). More than a few times it has been related to me personally that when called they (the Police) just don’t come.
I think that taken as whole our creaking criminal justice system may be reaching the point where it is failing to function, it is nether providing restorative justice or dealing with cranial behaviour, let along providing an adequate degree of protection to public servants going about their work. I think that the sooner criminal justice and policing are devolved to Wales the better, that way we can at least try to ensure that our communities are properly protected and the interests of justice are served.