Call for tougher sentences for attacks on bar and door staff

Police and Pubwatch launch campaign to protect hospitality workers and want sentences to equal those for assaults on 999 crews

Police and bar bosses in Plymouth want anyone who attacks a bouncer, bar staff or even a takeaway worker or taxi driver to get a sentence every bit as stiff as if they had assaulted a member of the emergency services – and that could mean jail.

A campaign has been started in the city warning Christmas revellers that any abuse, verbal or physical, of workers in the evening and nigh-time-economy (ENTE) will not be tolerated.

The Respect campaign will see posters going up in pubs and clubs around the city proclaiming a “zero tolerance to hate crime” during the festive season

But police and the city’s Pubwatch group, which is now heading for a membership of more than 150 licensed premises, want to take the crackdown further.

Sgt Dave Moore, police licensing sergeant, and Richard Smith of Pubwatch want the law change

They are pushing, with support from the national Portman Group trade body, for a legal change that would see ENTE workers given the same protection as police, paramedics and other blue light crews.

The new Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act has brought in tougher sentences for anyone who attacks 999 staff, with the maximum jail term increased from six months to a year.

Now, Plymouth is leading the charge to put hospitality workers on the same footing.

Sgt Dave Moore, police licensing sergeant, said it was important to protect licensees, bar staff, door staff, fast-food workers and taxi drivers.

“They are serving people, doing their jobs,” he said. “They don’t deserve to be assaulted.

“And if there is extra protection for emergency workers there should be extra protection for them too.

“We want to aim towards an equal footing. Door staff and bar staff are actually doing low-level police tasks, preventing offences, stopping things escalating.”

At one time, police were able to lobby for some crimes to be punished more severely, if there was a particular problem in that area. It is understood crimes against hospitality workers were treated more harshly in Plymouth.

Now, with the new act is in force, police and bar bosses think it is time to have ENTE workers included too.

They are arranging meetings with Plymouth MP Luke Pollard and ministers at Westminster, which will discuss the idea and potential sentences.Sgt Dave Moore and Pubwatch Richard Smith discuss the Respect Christmas campaign

Sgt Dave Moore and Pubwatch Richard Smith discuss the Respect Christmas campaign

And the Respect campaign, in conjunction with National Pubwatch, is being seen as a precursor to pushing for a change in the law.

The force is also keen that members of ethnic minorities who work in the ENTE, particularly in food outlets, are shielded.
“It’s a diverse community, we don’t want minorities targeted,” said Sgt Moore. “There are a lot of Chinese and Indian, and other nationalities, working and they should not be racially abused.”

He said the same applies to the LGBTQ community.

“Plymouth could be the birthplace for this change,” Sgt Moore said.

Richard Smith, chair of Plymouth Pubwatch and South West regional representative for the organisation nationally, said the organisation is now planning to affiliate an offshoot group for takeaways, because those workers can receive as much abuse as bar and door staff.

In pubs and club’s a lot of aggression stems from punters being refused service because they are too drunk.

“There is a lot of verbal abuse,” Mr Smith said. “A lot of people drink alcohol and think they are always right.

“Refusal of service is definitely a key driver, people think they know how much they can drink, but we see the signs, people dropping change, not being able to stand up straight, slurred speech. We sometimes have to deal with people that have pre-loaded at home.

“We want people to come out and enjoy themselves, but abuse won’t be tolerated.”

Story and photographs courtesy of Plymouth Live

NPW Editor: The issue of assaults and intimidation of door and bar staff is not a new problem. In 2009 NPW ran its own campaign (Court not Caution) due to concerns about the number of assaults, where perpetrators seemed to be avoiding court proceedings by accepting a police issued caution. Following our campaign, the Sentencing Council acknowledged that door and bar staff were ‘providing a service to the public’ and therefore any assault on them was an aggravating factor which might attract a higher penalty.