A fresh plea has been issued for tougher sentences for people who attack emergency workers, after a man was jailed for just 36 weeks for a brutal assault on a police officer.

The brave off-duty police officer was bitten and gouged by a shoplifter in Workington town centre – but despite his shouts for help nobody went to the officer’s aid.

The officer had restrained Thomas Dempsey after he saw him fleeing a shop where he had stolen perfume. But the shoplifter struggled and told the officer he would “smash his head in”.

Dempsey, 31, then bit the officer’s hand and gouged his eye during the struggle on September 23.

The defendant admitted four offences: assaulting an emergency worker, theft, breaching a restraining order and failing to turn up for a court hearing and was sentenced to 36 weeks custody last week.

Since the hearing at Carlisle Crown Court, the chairman of Cumbria Police Federation has called for tougher sentences to get the message across that such behaviour is unacceptable.

Carlisle Crown Court heard the officer involved had to undergo hospital tests to see whether he has contracted hepatitis.

The officer had shouted for members of the public to assist him, but nobody came to his aid.

Cumbria Police Federation chairman Paul Williams said: “I’m quite vocal in what I think about people who are assaulting our members on a regular basis.

“It’s on the increase, it’s getting worse, and for me a prison sentence is the only outcome for somebody who assaults a cop.

“Biting, spitting is the worst form of assault.

"My view is they should increase the prison sentence as it stands at the moment.

“[Thomas Dempsey] got 36 weeks and he’ll probably get out sooner – for me that’s not a lesson learnt.

“It’s good that they’re sending them to prison, it’s good that it’s being taken seriously, but I think we need tougher sentences to get that message across.”

Recorder Andrew Nuttall was the sentencing judge.

He told the defendant: “You’ve spent a good portion of your time in prison and it’s tragic, really.

“But that’s a matter for you entirely.”

Dempsey thanked the judge as he was led away to start his sentence.