We’ve put together a series of advice and tips to help you through the process of dealing with an assault of a police officer or staff.
Top Tip 1 – Assault or Injury on Duty?
We know that you regularly face confrontational situations in some of the most unpredictable scenarios in your general duties. Unfortunately that means there’s always a risk that you will get injured, assaulted or both.
When that happens, it’s really important that we know about it so we can give you the support you need and deserve. So it’s key that you report it correctly, on the right system.
There are generally two systems that we use for reporting assaults and injuries but they are separate and we use them differently.
Assaults should be reported on your local/force crime platform (Niche/CRIS etc). In order to comply with our legal H&S obligations forces also have various H&S reporting methods, some electronic, some paper based. In some cases they overlap. Reporting assaults with injury and near misses through H&S processes is a legal requirement.
Yes, it can mean repetition but it’s important to get right. Why?
The figures generated from both platforms help us understand what has happened to our colleagues as soon as possible. They help us inform tactics and training and prepare for the next time. They help us accurately inform others such as the Home Office and the media of what it is our colleagues face. They help us support you and your colleagues.
Assault v Injury on Duty
Clearly not all assaults result in injury and conversely not all injuries are as a result of an assault. It is important that we assess and accurately record assault and injuries correctly so that the most appropriate investigation can be conducted be that criminal or health and safety focussed.
In evidencing an assault, it is important to show where possible that the suspect carried out an intentional act. This evidence could be something said by the suspect before the assault or a witness/victim account of a deliberate act (e.g. slapping, punching, kicking, spitting etc). Ultimately, every assault or injury needs to be assessed on its merits and if there is no clear deliberate or obvious intent to cause harm then the issue of recklessness will need to be carefully assessed to ensure we record the incident accurately.
Injury on Duty
Examples of incidents which would amount to an injury on duty but not an assault could include:
- Restraining a suspect on the floor who is resisting and receiving a graze to the knee.
- A cut to the hand sustained whilst cuffing a suspect.
- A scrape on the knuckles on a wall whilst arresting a suspect.
- Pulled ligaments or sprains when a suspect tears themselves away from an officers grasp in order to resist arrest.
There is no legal definition of ‘resisting arrest’ and the term ‘resist’ does not imply assault. A suspects who pulls themselves away from an officer who is attempting to detain them does not necessarily commit and assault regardless of whether an injury occurred as a result.
Consideration should be given as to the intention of the suspect in each case as this will be key as to whether the incident is an assault or an injury on duty.
- Assaults without injury need to be reported on your crime system only. This includes being struck by a missile or bottle etc. That is still an assault even if you cannot see who threw it.
- Assaults with injury need to be reported on your crime system and your force H&S platform. This is a requirement not a request.
- Injuries on Duty that are not a result of assault (trips/falls, etc.) need to be reported on your H&S platform but not your crime system.
- If you come into contact with bodily fluid e.g. spat or coughed at, then both an H&S report (potential work related ill health issue) and crime report need to be created.
The bottom line is if you’re injured in any way (assault/ trip/ fall) it needs to go on to a H&S record. If you’re assaulted, whether you’re injured or not, it goes on the crime system. If you’re assaulted and injured it goes on both.
You’ll also need to inform a supervisor as they need to ensure these incidents are captured.
And you must ensure assaults and injuries are correctly and promptly recorded before going off duty.
There is an element of personal responsibility in all this and the more we know the better equipped we are to support you.
Top Tip 2 – Initial Post Assault Wellbeing Assessment
Through Operation Hampshire we want to make sure our colleagues get the support and justice they deserve if they are assaulted on duty. Everyone has a part to play in the process. It often means going the extra yard or investing time to get it right. But supervision is key and that extra yard will make all the difference.
The importance of Five Minutes …
With many things at present it seems there simply isn’t enough time in the day. Priorities and pressures change and we recognise that front line supervision is already a very demanding job.
With all of this it is easy to jump quickly from one priority to another but we need to take a moment to consider the importance of paying attention to detail. The difference between saving five minutes and spending five minutes can have a huge impact on your colleagues.
The following is provided notwithstanding the fact that some incidents will be very clearly high risk, traumatic events which will automatically trigger a high level response.
The following may sound obvious to many but the experience and approach of front line supervisors varies hugely. Some pointers may help with an initial wellbeing assessment. The list is not exhaustive but offers up some key considerations.
- This is about impact not just injury. The key here is ensuring you consider both the verbal and non-verbal responses.
- Consider the environment and timing? Privacy and subtlety are important. Taking an interest in wellbeing should be something our colleagues get used to but doesn’t need to be an overt display.
- Just asking “are you okay”? and spending the time to listen to the answer?
- Repeat victim? How many times has this person been assaulted or abused recently? This could lead to a deeper level of review and identify areas for support which may not be obviously apparent?
- Time & Space. Do they need a breather, time to get their mind straight and re-set? Manage responsibilities, paperwork, best evidence. Allow them time to decompress?
- Injuries? Sounds obvious but have a tendency to dismiss ourselves as victims and don the tough exterior. Do they need medical treatment?
- Capability? Consider the obvious (injury or head injury) but also consider the impact on the ability to concentrate and function clearly after an incident.
- Initial reflection. What happened?
- Re-exposure. Do they need to get straight back out? Consider that balance between operational and individual needs.
- Consider the wider associated impact on colleagues and team members. Assaults can bring home realities to those who have yet to be triggered.
- Consider tailoring the wellbeing response and signposting the victim to support that is specific to them. This could be through Oscar Kilo and the range of wellbeing and resilience options. The Federation or union or via one of your local staff associations for support.
- Don’t force it. Remember that we all respond differently and many police colleagues have got used to a culture of accepting things as they are. This takes time but being supported in this way needs to be something our colleagues get used to. We’re not wrapping people in cotton wool but we are changing a culture where we accept that our wellbeing as police officers and staff is important.
The decision to invest even a little time in the early stages is invaluable and can make or break the victim’s experience.
Top Tip 3 – Op Hampshire Initial investigation
Investigation skills and knowledge vary and good evidence takes time. It’s always worth taking a step back, going back to basics.
By looking at cases that have not gone the distance and sharing best practice, we’ve identified small steps you can take that put together, make a big difference in getting a case to court and getting the best outcome. And it will also help us provide the right support to the victim, our colleague, every step of the way.
Some top tips and links to guidance to bear in mind:
- Ensure the victim impact element is covered off in the victim’s statement. For first hearing including overnight to court cases, if the defendant pleads guilty at the first opportunity, you won’t get another chance to complete a VPS which can and does affect sentencing powers. A follow up VPS should be completed prior to trial.
- Take a moment to assess whether this incident actually amounts to an assault and not an injury on duty. This can be sensitive but there can be some grey areas that need to be considered. (see Assault versus Injury on Duty guidance)
- Identify the victim’s Body Worn Video (BWV), view it, categorise it, clip it as necessary to meet the required file size for the CPS.
- Identify all other BWV or request it from other attending officers/staff. View it and correctly categorise it. Often, it’s the BWV footage of other attending officers/staff that captures the offence due to the victim’s proximity to the suspect.
- Ensure you have medical evidence to support the charge being sought. The initial evidence doesn’t have to be a full medical statement from the doctor or consultant but can be triage or Forensic Medical Examiner (FME) notes, however it does need to clearly state the confirmed injury.
- Do not ”No further action’ (NFA) just because the suspect suffers from mental ill health or has been sectioned. We are not medically trained to NFA on this basis alone. See our guidance around investigations involving mental health.
- If there is a hate crime element to the investigation make sure both the electronic and paper case file are clearly flagged as ‘Hate Crime’ so the CPS know to uplift the offence.
- Include the force organisational impact statement in your case file (usually signed off by a senior officer). This won’t always be available for overnight cases court but they should be requested.
- Ensure the Streamlined Disclosure Certificate (SDC) is completed and fit for purpose. A correctly completed SDC will help reduce CPS memos and actions and progress the case more swiftly. Knowing what sensitive, non-sensitive, used and unused material can be daunting. Seek advice if you are unclear on the disclosure rules. (see link for an example of a completed SDC)
- Answer COPA memos and action plans expediently to avoid unnecessary discontinuances.
- VCOP – Contact the victim and update them regularly throughout every stage of the investigation. This includes arrest of suspect, suspect bailed to return and BTR alterations, suspect charged and any bail conditions, case closed undetected or suspect NFA, other case disposals – cautions, Police National Database (PND) etc, regular monthly updates until disposal. Just because they are a police officer or member of staff does not mean they are not victims and being out of the loop can be a real cause of frustration.
Some of this may sound like basic advice but with competing demands and varying degrees of investigation experience its worth double checking so we have the best opportunity to see cases through. These early checks can reduce delays and strengthen our chance of success as for some, justice delayed is justice denied.
Top Tip 4 – Op Hampshire Statement Structure
Good evidence takes time and statements can make or break a case as they are often the only evidence available. Taking the time to get the statement right means that we have the best chance of securing a successful outcome at court.
You should complete original notes to justify your actions as they are important evidentially, but they can be relatively brief. The statement should be more detailed and it may be more suitable for a colleague to take the time to capture the detail, including the impact it has had on you – the victim.
On this page we will look at the structure of a good statement.
Note: This 5 Part (+1) Statement Structure for Assaults on Emergency Workers is based on the 5 Part Statement Structure that forms part of MPS training around completion of statements (MG11s).
The 5 part statement structure provides detailed guidance for officers and staff on completing statements specific to assaults and verbal hate crime on officers and staff.
Five part structure:
Part 1 – Summary & Opening
Part 2 – Descriptions of participants
Part 3 – Setting the scene
Part 4 – Full chronological account of the incident
Part 5 – Closure & short VPS
Note: Separate guidance is available the composition of a detailed VPS
Part 1 – Summary and Opening
This introduces what the statement is about. It will be very brief, one or two sentences only.
For example: This statement refers to the day I was assaulted in the Custody Suite at NEW TOWN Police Station whilst acting in the exercise of my functions as an emergency worker in my role as a detention officer.
Part 2 – Participants
Introduce the main players and their role in the incident and how they are known to you or the victim. You can detail how you have dealt with the suspect over the time you have known them. This would be evidenced by previous arrests, stop and search, reported crimes, PNC checks etc.
Part 3 – Setting the scene
This is an important element as it helps provide context. Do not assume that the reader will automatically grasp the mood, setting the scene is important and helps the reader with perspective. This is essential if the environment provided additional risks, limited your ability to or forced you to take certain action. It is also important to explain if you had limited room to manoeuvre or escape or whether there were environmental risks or hazardous, dangerous objects to hand.
This not only paints a picture of the scene but can also show how the environment increased the vulnerability of, and risk to, the assaulted Police Officer/Staff. Consider including factors such as lighting, weather, noise, the public and crowd dynamics.
For example: The courtyard to the block measures approximately 4 meters square. It is poorly lit by one single security lamp. The space is enclosed on 3 sides by brick walls with access provided by a single metal gate, next to which is a refuse bin. The bin at this time was overflowing and could see that there were glass bottles and lying around. The suspect was positioned between myself and the gate.
Or: New Town Custody Suite is located on the ground floor of New Town Police Station. Access to the suite is through security gates leading up to the main vehicle yard then a door from the yard into the secure area is a holding area for arrested persons prior to being taken through to the main custody area which is accessed through a secure metal gate. The outer door from the yard locks behind you once you are in the holding area until someone within the custody area opens it. You are essentially trapped within the holding area unless someone else comes in from the outside or the custody staff let you in to the main custody suite.
Part 4 – Full chronological account of the incident
In this part, a detailed chronological account of what has occurred is given. It is preferable in many cases for the statement to be taken by a person who is independent of the incident using their training and skills to extract the relevant facts and points to prove. We need to consider the effect of perceptual distortion where the victim’s recollection of the facts may be abnormally affected by the trauma of the situation they were in.
It is important within this part of the statement that you clearly describe how the assaulted victim was performing their role as an emergency worker. This may sound obvious but consider the legitimacy or purpose of the interaction. Provide evidence of how the victim was identifiable as a police officer or member of staff such as uniform being worn. If the Officer/Staff is in plain clothes, were there any identifiable markings or badges on display.
Explain what the victim’s duties were. Detail why they were at the location. Were they are patrolling the area due to intelligence or previous incidents. What kind of incidents?
If the Officer/Staff was just passing through an area when the incident leading up to the assault took place then describe why they interacted with the suspect. Were they responding to a call from the public? If so, describe it.
Consider any verbal interaction with the suspect such as direct speech confirming they were a Police Officer/Staff. Where clear commands given? Did the suspect say or shout anything during the incident that indicates they knew they were dealing with a Police Officer/Staff?
Saying that the suspect was acting suspiciously is not enough. What was the suspect doing that aroused suspicion? Describe the actions of the suspect, answers to Q&A’s, demeanour, direct speech etc.
Describe what the officer was thinking before the assault. Consider the using the national decision model as a guide. What were their options? If they took pre-emptive action explain why and important explain why other options were not viable or taken. Was de-escalation attempted? One thing that is useful to explain is the fact that as a police officer you were obligated by duty to take action or intervene. Walking away is not an option in the majority of scenarios for us.
Describe the assault in as much detail as possible. Think about the points to prove and how the action of the suspect was a deliberate or intentional act. For example if it is an assault by spitting, describe any noises from the throat or nose, head movements and whether it was clear and deliberate. Describe in detail how the officer tried to protect or defend themselves. Describe the physical impact or pain felt.
Fully describe any injury received because of the assault. Some of these injuries will not be visible at the point the statement is taken and may never be visible but make ensure any mobility issues, pain, stiffness is covered. You should also include a paragraph on the impact the assault has had on the victim. Include what the Officer’s emotional/mental wellbeing was during and immediately after the assault. This will be an initial victim personal statement which should be re-visited in more detail later in a separate more comprehensive VPS (see VPS Top Tips)
Part 5 – Closure
In this part, full detailed descriptions of the people mentioned are given, starting with the suspect.
Explain how the suspect was identified or who whether any witnesses would recognise the suspect again. Also include continuity of the suspect under observation in order to negate identification issues. Consider the stated case of R v Turnbull 1976 and the ADVOKATE pneumonic.
- Amount of time under observation.
- Distance from the eyewitness to the person/incident.
- Visibility, including time of day, street lighting, etc.
- Obstructions of view, anything getting in the way of the witness’s view.
- Known or seen before, did the witness know, or had they seen, the alleged perpetrator before?
- Any reason to remember, did the witness know, or had they seen, the alleged perpetrator before?
- Time lapse, how long since the witness last saw the alleged perpetrator & duration of incident.
- Error or material discrepancies.
In this section you can include consent and authority to exercise powers, property identification and exhibits here.
Top Tip 5 – Victim Personal Statements
A well-constructed Victim Personal Statement (VPS) is important and provides the court with supporting information to suitably sentence a defendant if the impact on the victim is clear.
The CPS will need to know that a VPS has been considered and sought even if the victim chooses not to submit one. It is good practice to include something early on at the end of the evidential victim statement because if your suspect is arrested, charged, remanded overnight to court, pleads guilty and is sentenced, this will be the only chance to complete a VPS and it should be readily available at a first hearing.
If the case ends up going to trial, then a further more detailed VPS can be compiled later as the impact becomes more apparent or just before trial to show any lasting effects or ongoing issues as a result of the incident.
Although not a requirement, if a close family member, friend or colleague has also been impacted by the crime, a VPS can also be taken from them.
Issues to consider
There is no shame in admitting to fears and feelings. This is often something that as police officers and staff we struggle with. The whole purpose of a VPS is to demonstrate the impact on you as a human being. The courts do not want a robotic statement as this does not explain the true impact. We are human, we have the same fears, worries and expectations of any member of society and are entitled to the same levels of protection and justice afforded to the public.
A VPS needs to describe the following where relevant:
- Any physical, financial, emotional or psychological injury they have suffered and/or any treatment they have received as a result of the crime.
- Whether they are a repeat victim and any impact this has on confidence?
- What was the impact their next shift? Did or do they feel vulnerable or intimidated. Were they in fear and/or worried? If they no longer feel safe or anxious? Are they nervous about patrolling, alone or otherwise?
- Consider the impact on their family life (including the effect anti-viral drugs has had on intimacy with partners or interaction with children and family following a spit, bite or needle stick injury).
- How the quality of their life has changed on a day-to-day basis. Do they have problems sleeping? Medication? Mobility?
- If they need additional support, for example, if they are likely to appear as a witness at the trial.
- The on-going impact of the crime on their lives.
Should any of the above change further down the line the victim is entitled to complete another VPS prior to trial to update the court.
This is because any of the points above may not be immediately evident straight after the assault and tend to present days, weeks or months after the initial assault.
Top Tip 6 – Victims Right to Review (VRR)
Victims of crime have a right to challenge decisions. There are a number of stages at which No Further Action (NFA) or discontinuance decision can be made. This right applies if the decision is taken during the investigation stage, discontinued after charge but before trial by the CPS or withdrawn at trial by the CPS. Victims, including police victims have the right to apply to have the case reviewed. We should actively promote the fact this this right exists.
VRR – Police Decision
The investigating officer has a responsibility to inform the victim of this right. This is a requirement under the Victims Code of Practice and must be recorded on the crime report.
In order for the case to qualify for a review it must satisfy the following requirements;
- be a recordable offence under the National Crime Recording Standards
- a suspect has been identified and interviewed under caution, and;
- a decision has been made not to bring proceedings in cases where the police have the authority to charge a suspect; or
- a decision is made that the case does not meet the Threshold Test for referral to the CPS for a charging decision.
Should a case qualify for VRR with regards to a police charging decision, the review may be completed by an officer of the same rank as that of the decision maker.
VRR – CPS Decision
A proposed discontinuance of a case by the CPS can be challenged in the first instance by the investigating officer following the receipt of a discontinuance notice.
If the discontinuance does goes ahead then the victim is entitled to have the CPS decision reviewed under the VRR process. The victim must be informed of this right and this should be recorded on the crime report.
The CPS ask that you appeal a discontinuance within five days of the CPS communication of the decision to discontinue. This allows a prompt review and if appropriate, proceedings to be recommenced as quickly as possible.
The CPS website details timescales, email addresses and other requirements (see CPS VRR Scheme)
VRR Submission – Supporting advice for Victims, Supervisors and Investigating Officers
The VRR process generates a chain of activity within the CPS. It is important that we utilise this process to greatest effect. The following points are important considerations prior to any formal VRR submission by the Victim:
- The investigating officer may have relevant information that has not been shared with the victim. The victim, supervisor and investigating officer should attempt to consult to ensure there is a full appreciation of why the victim is dissatisfied.
- The investigating officer and supervisor should review the case file and any CPS generated emails to ensure that all CPS memos and actions have been completed satisfactorily
- Outstanding memos and actions are not necessarily a blocker to a VRR submission and may in fact have no relevance to the original decision on which you seek a review.
- It is the victims right to invoke the process however, it may be appropriate for a supervisor to discuss the potential outcomes and manage expectations.
- There are time constraints with regards the VRR. The victim must bear this in mind when waiting for the investigating officer and supervisor to complete their review of the case.
The above actions are not mandatory but if managed within a sufficient timeframe they could lead to a more effective use of the VRR process.
Once these points have been covered and the victim feels that further rationale and consideration is required from the CPS then the VRR submission should go ahead. Without this simple housekeeping we can leave ourselves open to unnecessary criticism.