Priti Patel opens up about being assaulted by drug-fuelled gang ‘it’s appalling’
The Home Secretary also revealed her parents were repeatedly targeted by criminals during her childhood. As she gave a warning to thugs who carry out “disgusting” attacks on the police that “they will go down”, Ms Patel said her hardline approach to tackling crime was shaped by seeing how criminality shatters lives.
She said: “I’ve been assaulted with someone threatening to attack me with glass more than 15 years ago.
“That was on my own doorstep just outside my house.”
The Cabinet minister said she was threatened by the group, who were on drugs, but she was not harmed.
Although it was a “sad reflection of the circumstances they were in”, she did not have justice for the horrifying assault.
Ms Patel said her parents, who were shopkeepers, were repeatedly targeted during her childhood.
“I’ve grown up with my parents being assaulted in their own shop,” she said.
“We’ve been subject to burglary, robbery, theft, break-ins, you name it. It is absolutely appalling. The impact that has, not just on a business but personally as well, is enormous.”
Ms Patel said has met “too many victims of crime” whose lives have “been shattered off the backs of crime and criminality”.
“No question, that has shaped my approach and my judgment in terms of protection but also protection of our officers who are out there on the frontline everyday.”
Ms Patel championed victims’ rights as a backbencher in parliament as chairwoman of a cross-party group pushing for greater protections.
The Home Secretary said it is her mission to protect frontline heroes risking their lives to help the public.
Ms Patel revealed the “appalling” impact crime has had on her family and vowed to improve justice for victims as she unveiled tough new laws.
Police have been subjected to shocking assaults throughout the pandemic, with 55 officers assaulted in Kent just last week, including 12 who were spat at while out on patrol.
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Priti Patel with police officers in London
“People are spitting at officers,” Ms Patel said. “That is not just disgusting, that is an offence and people need to know that. If you harm one of our brave officers then you will receive a sentence.”
The Home Secretary said her message to anyone that harms officers is “they will go down”.
Under the reforms, the maximum sentence for assaulting an emergency worker is being doubled to two years.
At a police firearms centre in east London, Ms Patel heard first hand of the risks officers face, including acid attacks.
“They have put themselves in harm’s way to protect the rest of us so as Home Secretary it is my duty and my responsibility to protect them,” she said.
The flagship bill drawn up by the Home Office and Ministry of Justice will introduce longer sentences, increase support for police and force authorities to share more information.
It enshrines in law the Police Covenant that promises to support police officers and their families if they are injured or are suffering mental health problems.
“Hearing from these police officers, the impact of what they do, what they can and cannot say to their families, is really quite something,” Ms Patel said.
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“They live with that everyday. And I’ve met, sadly, who have died, or been assaulted or injured and that is one of the saddest parts of my role.”
Ms Patel said a police officer friend of her family was attacked while out on duty last year.
She described the attacks on the police last summer during a wave of protests as “harrowing” and said it was important to remember that behind all the kit, police are “human beings”.
Met Police figures show over the last 12 months show around 20 officers were assaulted every day on average. The 7,140 tally was up by 19 per cent on the previous year.
Of those, 151 involved coughing at an officer and raising the threat of covid while 68 were spat at.
The maximum penalty for criminal damage of a memorial will go up from three months to 10 years and police will have more powers to tackle non-violent protests and unauthorised encampments under the legal reforms.
Councils, police, criminal justice bodies, health and fire services will have a legal duty to tackle serious violence and share intelligence.
Priti Patel profile
Ms Patel said it has been her “mission” since taking on the job to back the police and make sure the Conservatives are the party of law and order
She is looking at ways to give more FBI-style powers to the National Crime Agency, which tackles serious and organised crime, by increasing work with counter-terror experts.
“It’s right that we explore all options and I’m doing that,” she added. “We work very closely with the NCA, I want to bolster them. It’s right that we empower them and give them the tools that they need.”
Ms Patel said hidden crime is one of the biggest challenges facing police after the pandemic.
She warned that online crime such as fraud is “absolutely soaring” and is a key area of focus.
And she raised fears that an increase in crimes against children will become apparent as children go back to school.
The Home Secretary said funding is being invested in the NCA so it can go after perpetrators and they will face tougher sentences.
Under the reforms, religious leaders and sports coaches will be banned from having sex with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care in an expansion of child abuse laws.
The move would close a legal loophole under position of trust laws, which already apply to teachers and doctors among other professions.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “We are delighted that after relentless campaigning, the Government has finally listened to our calls and agreed to close this legal loophole.
“This landmark step sends a clear message that children and young people can return to the extracurricular activities they love without being at risk of grooming by the very adults they should look to for support and guidance.”
Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said the public is entitled to expect that tackling serious crime will be a priority.
He added: “Restoring confidence in the criminal justice system will require sustained investment. We hope the measures announced in the bill will not just be cosmetic but will be matched by a real commitment to getting the justice system on its feet again and truly protecting the victims of crime.”