PC Glen Hill responded to an emergency call from staff at a Rotherham pub last November, but was left to break up a drunken fight on his own and was assaulted, suffering serious injuries. South Yorkshire Police Federation, which represents front-line officers, said yesterday the case showed the importance of giving officers adequate back-up and assessing the risk of incidents.
“Under the previous government, there was a drive to increase what was called visibility and confidence, which meant officers going out alone,” said the federation’s chairman Neil Bowles. “As the number of officers decreases, the number of ‘single-crewed’ jobs goes up, putting more police at risk. Somebody should have realised that this officer was on his own. This case raises the question of what emphasis is placed on assessing the risk of different jobs, any pub disturbance should not be dealt with by a single officer.”
Police forces nationwide have been told to make £2.4 billion in cuts by 2015, and all four Yorkshire forces have seen officer numbers on the street decrease. Figures released last month by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary showed that by 2015, South Yorkshire Police will have lost 436 officers as the force battles to save £40m.
Sheffield Crown Court heard yesterday how PC Hill had attended the Mail Coach in Wellgate, Rotherham, after an emergency call was received by control room staff. He attended the scene but received no back-up and suffered a broken jaw and cuts to his face after he was repeatedly hit over the head with his own canister of CS spray.
Michael Dolan, 49, of Adelaide Street, Maltby, yesterday admitted unlawful wounding following the attack on November 12. He had been due to go on trial after denying at a previous hearing a grievous bodily harm charge. But after legal discussions he admitted the lesser offence of unlawful wounding which was acceptable to the prosecution and he will now be sentenced next month.
Brian Outhwaite, prosecuting, told the court that the case fell into the “top end” of the sentencing guidelines for such an assault.
“During the course of this defendant assaulting the officer he was forced to fight off the defendant,” said the prosecutor. “The defence accept it is a very serious matter and was an assault on a serving officer in the execution of his duty.”
Jim Baird, defending, agreed it was at the upper end of the scale and that it “clearly involved the use of a weapon”. He said Dolan had a number of medical problems which needed to be explored in a pre-sentence report. “He is in custody and is under no illusions,” he added.
Some drinkers were smoking in the pub and when asked to stop were abusive to the manageress. They were asked to leave but became aggressive and a call was made to the police.
Recorder Christopher Attwooll ordered pres-sentence reports, and told Dolan: “You will understand I am sure with this sort of offence, assaulting an officer seriously in the execution of his duty will almost inevitably attract a lengthy custodial sentence.”
The court heard the injured officer is normally based at Maltby but responded as there was nobody available at Rotherham’s main station just half-a-mile away from the scene of the assault. Two other Rotherham men have already been convicted of affray over the attack.
A South Yorkshire Police spokesman confirmed PC Hill responded to the incident on his own, and added: “This is force policy. Officers are not routinely deployed double crewed unless a risk assessment deems otherwise. Officers are single crewed to maximise availability and accessibility. Attacks on police officers are entirely unacceptable as are attacks on anybody doing their job.”