Hampshire Police Federation chairman welcomes Theresa May pledge on police killers

John Apter
John Apter

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The leader of Hampshire’s rank-and-file policemen today welcomed a Government move to stop police killers from ever leaving jail.

Home Secretary Theresa May announced the proposal when she addressed the annual conference of the Police Federation in Bournemouth today.

The Government wants sentencing guidelines to say that life imprisonment should mean life for anyone convicted of killing a police officer on duty.

John Apter, chairman of the Hampshire Police Federation, said: ‘I welcome it. I think both police officers and the public should have confidence that when somebody takes the life of a police officer then the maximum prison sentence available in this country should be imposed and life should mean life.

‘What I would want to emphasis is that I’m not suggesting that the life of a police officer is worth more than that of anyone else – it’s the role.

‘The courts and society should recognise police officers do an extremely dangerous job. As we have seen in other parts of the country, such as Greater Manchester, there are some wicked people who will target police officers because they’re police officers.’

Mr Apter said he would like the Home Secretary to go further and include all public sector workers - nurses, paramedics, firefighters and prison officers.

He added: ‘If somebody is murdered carrying out a role that benefits the public the courts should recognise that and the sentence should be more severe.

‘The would-be offender must understand completely that if they chose to go down that particular path there will be no sympathy for them in the court procedure.’

The current starting point for anyone convicted of the murder of a police officer in the line of duty is 30 years.

But the Government is to propose that this should be increased to a life sentence without parole, Theresa May told the Police Federation annual conference.

There have been 12 direct killings of police officers in the course of duty since 2000 - including the murder of Pcs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes by one-eyed Dale Cregan in Greater Manchester last year.

Mrs May told the event in Bournemouth: ‘To attack and kill a police officer is to attack the fundamental basis of our society.

‘We ask police officers to keep us safe by confronting and stopping violent criminals for us. We ask them to take risks so that we don’t have to.

‘That is why I am clear that life should mean life for anyone convicted of killing a police officer.”

The proposals, to be put to the Sentencing Council, formed part of Mrs May’s speech before she took questions from officers on the floor.

Her appearance comes after a number of policing reforms were unveiled, including the start of fast-track recruitment and a cut to annual pay for new police constables.

And tensions are likely to continue to run high as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor, the mastermind behind many of the new changes, takes the stage in the afternoon.

Among other reforms to be brought in are plans to bring in a national register of sacked officers in a bid to stop dismissed police from being recruited by other forces.

This was part of a wider package of proposals aimed at restoring faith in the police service in the wake of a series of scandals, including the police cover-up of their role in the Hillsborough disaster, the phone-hacking affair and the row over police claims that former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell called an officer a “pleb”.

The shake-up was drawn up by Mr Winsor, a former rail regulator, following an 18-month review, which sparked outrage among tens of thousands of officers.

Yesterday, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told the conference the Government is risking making it harder to catch criminals like fugitive Andrew Moran with its stance on Europe.

Moran, 31, from Salford, Greater Manchester, was arrested in the Spanish resort of Calpe in Alicante on Friday after being on the run for more than four years.

Ms Cooper said a proposal to withdraw from the European Arrest Warrant agreement plays into the hands of criminals and ties the hands of police.

Another high profile case where a police officer died was that of Ian Dibell, an off-duty officer who was shot as he tried to stop a gunman.

Mr Williams said: “The public need to have confidence that the criminal sentence they read about in the paper is the sentence the offender completes. There is no hierarchy when it comes to victims of murder, however police officers risk their lives on a daily basis confronting danger on behalf of others.

“Would-be offenders must know that they will receive the most severe penalty possible. In the names of Fiona Bone, Nicola Hughes and Ian Dibell - three police officers murdered in the last year alone - we support any move that means a true life sentence will be applied to anyone who murders a police officer.”