Assaulting a Police Officer
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Police officers undertake very important work to keep the streets safe and properly investigate crimes when they are reported. They have a right to go about their day to day duties without threats or violence against them.
Assaulting a police officer is a criminal offence and dealt with in a legal sense as aggravated assault. This is one of the more serious crimes and the penalties for this charge can be significant.
Laws for Assaulting a Police Officer
When a police officer is assaulted, guidance under the Police Act 1996 and in particular Section 89 will come into force. This legislation states that it is against the law for an individual to resist a police officer who is executing their duties.
It is also an offence to knowingly or wilfully obstruct their work or to assault a police officer or an individual who is assisting an officer carry out their duties.
If an offender is to be successfully prosecuted for assaulting a police officer, it must be established and proven that the officer was executing their duties at the time of the assault. The court will also need to determine whether the offender committed the assault in self defence.
There is somewhat of a grey area surrounding what constitutes a police officers duty. However, the court must be satisfied that the police officer was assaulted. In doing so, they will take into consideration whether the officer acted in such a way to prevent a crime from taking place, to protect the life of someone, to keep the peace or during the investigation or identification of a crime.
If a police officer is assaulted but they are not carrying out their official police business, an offender is still liable for prosecution, but not for assaulting a police officer. The crime would be dealt with as common assault which carries a lesser sentence.
As defined under common law, the duty of a police officer is to prevent criminal activity and to keep the peace. When it comes to wilful obstruction, this is a term used to describe a situation where an officer is prevented from carrying out their duty or from preserving the peace.
This could include for example during a protest. The protester may refuse to cease their activities which prevents the officer from carrying out their duties under the scope of the law.
Assaulting a police officer has three main elements:
- Obstruction – Where an individual makes it difficult for a police officer to carry out their duties or they fail to cooperate under questioning. An obstruction must be wilful in that they are pre-planned or deliberate
As already established, the courts must be satisfied that the police officer was assaulted in order to successfully prosecute the offender. An assault occurs when an individual attacks another either intentionally or recklessly.
The penalties for assaulting a police officer can be severe. If the court decide that the case can proceed and assault did take place, the offender if convicted may face a prison sentence of up to six months in addition to a potential fine of no more than £5,000. Obstructing a police officer is also a crime and this can result in a fine of up to £1,000.