Those convicted of assaulting police officers should be given mandatory prison sentences, the body representing frontline officers in Cumbria has said.

Paul Williams, chairman of the Cumbria Police Federation, has called for mandatory jail terms for all those convicted of assaulting a police officer, following the Ministry of Justice's announcement yesterday that the maximum custodial sentence for assaulting emergency workers will be raised from one year to two.

The news that tougher sentences will be introduced for assaults on emergency workers comes just days after a Whitehaven woman was fined £120 and handed a community order for assaulting a female police constable.

Teresa Marie O'Neill, 48, of St James Court, Whitehaven, admitted the assault, which happened on April 22, at Workington Magistrates Court last Friday. The order required O'Neill to attend up to 20 days of rehabilitation.

She was also fined £120 and ordered to pay £50 compensation to her victim, £85 court costs and £95 victim surcharge.

Assaults on police officers have risen sharply in the past year. New figures released this month show a national rise of assaults on officers of 31 per cent from July 2019 to July 2020, a figure described by Mr Williams as "staggering and sickening.

"The message is clearly not getting out there how it’s unacceptable to assault a police officer just doing their duty and our cops need more intense backing and support."

“Considering a harsher penalty is not a deterrent it needs to be a mandatory prison sentence that is substantial enough to make those despicable individuals think twice.

"During Covid we have had many instances of officers being spat at with the culprit stating they have Covid. That is sick and unforgivable.”

Mr Williams welcomed yesterday's news that the Government is set to double the maximum prison sentence for those who assault emergency workers.

“I fully support this Government action and it’s about time we hit back at those who hit our emergency workers," he said.

“I would personally like to see a mandatory prison sentence for those who struggle with the fact you cannot assault the very people employed to protect the public.

“An assault on an emergency worker is an assault on the fabric of our society and it cannot be tolerated."

“Now the Government is giving us some tools I hope they will be used to the maximum effect and would urge the courts and CPS to hop on board with us and demonstrate how serious we take it.”

Yesterday's announcement comes two years after the introduction of the Assaults on Emergency Workers Act, which set a maximum prison sentence of 12 months for anyone convicted of assaulting an emergency worker.

A total of 370 Cumbria Police officers were assaulted last year, according to the Cumbria Police Federation.