News & Star readers have uniformly called 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 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.

Facebook user Keith Garner expressed his opinion that the penalty for those who attack key workers should be heavier than currently, while stating that one factor that may have not acted as a deterrent was that the officer in this scenario was wearing civilian clothing

"[It should be]5 years and make them do every awareness courses there as the emergency services have enough to contend with but I think mitigating factor in this it was an off duty police officer so probably in plain clothes and didn't identify himself."

Fellow Facebook user Andy Sabin Hope was unequivocal in his view that the current penalties for the assault on a police officer are too lenient.

"the start point should be 10 years minimum with full sentence to be served, with more if it is aggravated."

Cumbria Police Federation chairman Paul Williams said: “I think we need tougher sentences to get a message across."