POA says jail time for prison officer attack ‘appropriate’

The Professional Trades Union for Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers (POA) has approved a court’s decision to order a prisoner who assaulted his officer to four years’ extra jail time.

The prisoner at HM Prison Gartree, a Category B men’s prison, located in Market Harborough, Leicestershire was given a 12-month sentence for the offence of squirting urine in a prison officer’s face. A second offence of assault against an officer resulted in a three-year sentence. Both will be added to his current sentence.

POA national chair, Mark Fairhurst, said it was an ‘appropriate’ sentence. “We expect nothing less from the judiciary when brave public servants in public and private sector prisons, secure hospitals and immigration removal centres are subject to disgusting and cowardly attacks for simply serving the public and doing their job.”

He added: “We hope these judgments both continue and act as a deterrent.”

Courts are right to issue longer sentences to prisoners who attack, said the POA after a man was given four years extra jail time for two offences.

The POA backed recent changes to the law designed to give greater protections to prison officers. The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act, passed in October 2018, doubled the maximum sentence from 6 to 12 months for assaulting emergency workers, including policemen, firefighters, NHS service workers and prison officers.

Prison assaults have reached record high levels. In 2018 there were 10,085 assaults on staff in prisons in England and Wales, up 29 per cent from the previous year, say the Ministry of Justice.

The POA is concerned that improvements will not be made after prisons minister Rory Stewart stepped down in May after one year in the role.

Mr Fairhurst said: “The pledges [Mr Stewart] made and the way he engaged with us and listened to us were positive, but the question is what happens now? This is an emergency – we are still in crisis. Safety is a massive issue. We’re getting staff with their throats slashed and getting their heads stamped on.”