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DUP South Antrim MLA Trevor Clarke has said that the PSNI should have access to the same protection as police forces elsewhere in the United Kingdom after a significant rise in assaults on local police officers was reported in provisional figures for this financial year.

Commenting, Mr Clarke said:

β€œIt is deeply concerning that both the number and severity of assaults on police officers in Northern Ireland continues to rise. In the current financial year, there has been a 13.6% increase in assaults on constables. More than one in five attacks were classified as grievous bodily harm - a significant increase on the average of the past five years.

It unacceptable that police officers should face this threat for simply doing their job. The PSNI should have at its disposal every available operational tool to safeguard the welfare of their officers and staff while they in turn seek to protect the public.

Given the prevalence of spitting and biting, it is absolutely right that police officers are able to access to guards to protect both themselves and members of the public from such despicable attacks. The overwhelming majority of police forces in Great Britain had authorised these even before the onset of Covid-19. Therefore, it is welcome that steps are now being taken to provide a firm basis for their use in Northern Ireland.

The Justice Minister must also ensure sentencing for attacks on members of the emergency services is fit for purpose. The legitimate public expectation is that those responsible will be brought before the courts and serve an appropriate length of time in prison.

No stone should go unturned as we seek to protect those who protect us.’’