Whither Section 89(1) of the Police Act 1996?

Date01 April 2019
Published date01 April 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Whither Section 89(1)
Neil Parpworth
Leicester De Montfort Law School, UK
Shortly after the establishment of police forces in England, Parliament provided that it was an
offence to assault an officer who was acting in the execution of their duty at the material time.
This long-established offence is now to be found in s. 89(1) of the Police Act 1996. As this
article seeks to demonstrate, establishing that an officer was acting within the execution of
their duty has sometimes caused problems for the prosecution. It is argued here, however, that
such difficulties need no longer arise following the enactment of s. 1 of the Assaults on
Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018. Without the matter being debated in Parliament,
and despite the silence of the 2018 Act, the creation of the new statutory offence of assaulting
an emergency worker while they are carrying out functions as such makes it highly likely that in
the future, assaults on police officers will no longer be prosecuted under s. 89(1).
Assault on a police officer, execution of duty, emergency workers, exercise of functions as
such, prosecutorial discretion
Typically given that it is private members’ legislation, the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences)
Act 2018
is a concise enactment. Withinits four sections, it createsa new statutory offence of assaultingan
emergency worker who is carrying out their functions as such. Such conduct would previously have been
captured by other criminal offences, such as common assault or assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Corresponding author:
Neil Parpworth, Leicester De Montfort Law School, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, UK.
E-mail: njp@dmu.ac.uk
1. The Act received Royal Assent on 13th September 2018: see Hansard, HC Deb Vol. 646, at col. 869 (13 September 2018). It
came into force two months after the date of Royal Assent, that is, 13 November 2018: see s. 4(2). The Bill’s sponsor, Chris
Bryant MP, considered that ‘two months was pretty much the shortest period we could allow for the prosecuting authorities and
others to get everything out there’: see Hansard, HC Deb Vol. 629, at col. 1136 (20 October 2017).
2. See the Criminal Justice Act 1988, s. 39 and the Offences against the Person Act 1861, s. 47, respectively. The former is
amended by s. 1(5) of the 2018 Act so as to give the courts increased sentencing powers where a common assault is committed
against an emergency worker.
The Journal of Criminal Law
2019, Vol. 83(2) 136–143
ªThe Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0022018318822218

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