CUMBRIA’S most senior judge has demanded a crackdown against thugs who attack frontline police officers.

Judge Peter Davies demanded the action after a Crown Prosecution Service lawyer revealed the shocking recent toll of police assaults in Cumbria, with more than 400 officers suffering assaults in just five years.

The judge’s comments came as the government announced tougher maximum sentences for offenders convicted of the least serious category of assault on emergency workers such as police, and paramedics.

The maximum jail term is to rise from six months to a year.

The Cumbrian figure was revealed at as prosecutor Gerard Rogerson outlined the attack on police dog handler PC Diane Irving, who suffered a suspected eye fracture and severe facial bruising in the Botchergate attack last December.

Judge Davies jailed the thug responsible, 24-year-old Kieron Murray, who admitted an assault causing actual bodily harm. Murray, from Esk Road, Lowry Hill, admitted assault causing actual bodily harm, jailing him for 10 months

The judge vowed to protect the county’s police officers.

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock said: “Our emergency services staff serve and protect us in many different ways, often in extremely taxing conditions.

“Most people acknowledge that and give them the support they deserve, but there is a rising number of attacks being made on staff.

“They manifestly deserve as much protection as we can give them and I fully support the doubling of the maximum prison term for people being convicted of assault in these circumstances."

Earlier, Mr Rogerson had outlined how as police officers were taking Murray to hospital for a check-up, the defendant had clenched his fists and made repeated references to Dale Cregan, who shot dead two women police officers in 2013 after luring them to a house.

After outlining Murray’s unprovoked assault on PC Irving, Mr Rogerson read a statement from Cumbria’s Deputy Chief Constable Mark Webster about the impact of such violence.

“Police officers and staff are subjected to assaults far too regularly,” said Mr Webster in his statement.

“While they might be expected to be confronted with violence, it should not be accepted simply as part of the job. Any physical injury will cause suffering and that should not be acceptable.”

Between 2013 and 2017 there were 423 police assaults recorded in Cumbria. A further 325 injuries were inflicted on officers by suspects resisting arrest.

Cumbria’s Deputy Chief Constable Mark Webster said that 135 working days were lost by the Cumbrian force as a result of the assaults, placing addition strain on officers. “Morale is significantly impacted when officers see their friends and colleagues being assaulted and abused,” he said.

“In turn, that can also affect the force’s ability to recruit new officers."

“We have a duty to protect the public and all too often we are prevented from doing so by violent individuals who choose to attack those who are there to help them.

“Officers and staff are responsible for enforcing the rule of law - dedicated members of the criminal justice system, which works collectively towards keeping communities safe. This depends on a high level of consent.

“Any assault on officers has an ability to degrade [the force’s] overall effectiveness and our way of life. Most importantly, it should be remembered that police officers are people: they are fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, and when they are attacked they become victims just like any other; victims who have been attacked while trying to help others.”

Reacting to that statement, Judge Davies said: “There is no way that this crown court receives 423 [police] assaults.

“My view – and it’s a view that I’ve held for some time – is that too many of these assaults on the police are dealt with summarily. They are not charged properly. They don’t find their way to the crown court; and a lot of them should find their way to the crown court.

“I want that message to go to a senior level at the Crown Prosecution Service; and a senior level at the police.” The judge said violence towards an arresting police officer should not simply be overlooked.

Murray, from Esk Road, Lowry Hill, admitted assault causing actual bodily harm.

Jailing him for 10 months, Judge Davies told Murray: “You were drunk; you were aggressive; you were abusive.

“Because you were injured they helped you. But you spoke to them in disparaging terms about them being coppers, referring to Dale Cregan, that loathsome individual.

“How dare you threaten, frighten, and intimidate people in that way when they are trying to help you.”

Judge Davies added: “Police in this county are going to be protected, and protected by me, from thugs like you.”

Cumbria Police’s temporary Detective Chief Superintendent Dean Holden said: “We can assure the public that assaults on our officers will not be tolerated and that we thoroughly investigate each incident of assault.

“Our officers and staff work incredibly hard to keep people in Cumbria safe and there is absolutely no excuse for any of them to be assaulted.

“Above anything else, police officers are human beings and when assaulted they become victims of crime. The impact on those assaulted, and their families, can be long-lasting and traumatic.

“Positive action is taking place both here in Cumbria and also nationally, with the introduction of a law that could lead to tougher sentences for offenders. This sends a clear message to criminals that the unacceptable assaults on police officers will not be accepted.

“When investigating an assault, including those on police officers, the Constabulary will always seek to work in collaboration with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to determine the appropriate charges.

“If, following the police investigation, charges are supported by the CPS then those suspected of committing an assault are brought before a court.”

A CPS spokeswoman said: “The CPS takes all allegations of assault very seriously, and each case that is referred to us by police must be considered on its own facts and evidence, whether it is an allegation of violence against a police officer or a member of the public.

“There are many factors to take into consideration when deciding if there is sufficient evidence to prosecute and what the most appropriate charge is.

“Prosecutors consider all the available evidence very carefully to make sure the charge – for example common assault, ABH, GBH or wounding - matches the seriousness of the crime, ensuring the more serious cases go to the Crown Court.

“If an offence is committed against someone providing a service to the public, such as police officers, we will also highlight this as an aggravating factor to the judge to assist in sentence, as we did in this particular case [Kieron Murray].”

After Murray was sentenced last week, Judge Davies said he would recommend that she receives a Chief Constable’s commendation for her courage. Despite being in agony, she continued working with colleagues as they pursued and caught Murray.