Call for change in law by PC bitten on duty in Harrogate

PC Julie Stead was left terrified by the wait for her blood test results
PC Julie Stead was left terrified by the wait for her blood test results

A police officer who was bitten while restraining a woman in custody has backed calls for stronger measures against those who assault members of the emergency services.

PC Julie Stead, who has served with North Yorkshire Police for 18 years, was injured last year after helping to restrain a woman at the custody suites in Harrogate Police Station.

She was bitten roughly four inches from her thumb. The incident lasted only a few seconds but PC Stead she said was left terrified by the wait that followed.

The nurse on call at the custody suites was able to clean the wound and prevent an infection, but blood tests had to be taken to screen for a potential transference of diseases including HIV and hepatitis.

PC Stead said:“Physically this was not a massive thing for me but after the night I had a four month wait for the results which was horrendous.
“I ended up having a week off before I got my results, and that was down to stress and I was stressed from the fear of having potentially contracted something.”

She added: “I have been in the job 18 years , I have been spat on, kicked , but I never had to deal with anything like this before.
“The paramedic told me it was the worst human bite they had seen, and I still have a scar.
“As far as I am concerned it is over and done with, but it still upsets me how I had tell my family to keep away. It was a really hard time.”

It was not until August that PC Stead received her results, which came back negative.

The Assaults on Emergency Services Offences Bill is set to be heard inthe House of Lords next month, one of the next steps before the draft legislation could potentially become law.

This would cover offences committed against those serving in the police, NHS, and Fire and Rescue Services.

Currently the Bill calls for changes, including a new offence for assaulting an emergency worker which carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail.

PC Stead said: “What I hope the bill will bring about is to help firefighters, the ambulance service and police officers to go about their businesses with more confidence.
“If people are dissuaded from attacking us while we just get on with our jobs, even if this just stops a small minority of people from attacking us, this will have been a real success.

“Everyone else goes about their job without having to expect that.
“For the emergency services it is however a real problem. “

She added: “I would welcome anything that could help us to do our jobs, protecting people and upholding the law, and not getting a good hiding while doing this.”

Whilst welcoming news of the Bill progressing, the Police Federation of England and Wales has said it is concerned at the current state of proposed changes.

They say this is because it does not offer the level of protection they have previously called for.

Calum Macleod, Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales said: “Recognition was given by all parties in the House of Commons of the incredible work of the police and other emergency services. All wanted to send a clear signal that assaults on those we rely on should not be tolerated. But sadly we were left under-whelmed.”