It is an offence under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (offences) Act 2018 to commit common assault or battery against an emergency worker acting in the exercise of functions as such a worker. Assaults on police officers are now charged under this act as opposed to the Police Act 1996.
The aim behind this new legislation is to give the courts greater sentencing powers and to treat these offences more seriously.
Under the Police Act 1996 it is an offence to resist or wilfully obstruct a police officer in the execution of his or her duty.
In some cases, it can be argued that there was no assault or that you did not try to make the officer's job more difficult. We can challenge the police officers at trial on your behalf.
There may also be an issue about whether the officer was acting in the “execution of his or her duty” and we can examine the evidence and the circumstances of your arrest to establish whether the officer was acting outside their duty which would be likely to render any force used on the officer as “reasonable self-defence”.
Generally speaking, a police constable must take all steps which appear to him or her necessary for keeping the peace, for preventing crime, or for protecting property. However, they must act in accordance with their duties and powers as set out by the law. For example, ‘reasonable force’ can used to stop and search, to seize items, to enter premises (with and without search warrants) or to make an arrest. Where the officer uses excessive force, then it can be argued that an offence of assault or obstruction has not been committed.
In a situation where an officer restrains someone, but does not at that time intend or purport to arrest them, the officer is acting outside their execution of duty, and any resistance (within reason) should not be considered unlawful.
It may also amount to a defence, where a person struggles while being detained by someone they genuinely do not believe to be a police officer. This is known as a ‘mistake of fact’.
We realise it can be daunting to challenge a police officer where you do not agree with what they say, but we have extensive experience of dealing with disputed police evidence, and will ensure you have the opportunity to get your side of the story across.