MPs must be given greater protection from public, study shows

MPs must be given greater protection from the public, it has been claimed, after a study found four out of five respondents had been victims of intrusive or aggressive behaviour.

Of the 239 MPs that took part in the survey, 43 said they had been subject to attack or attempted attacks, 101 said they had received threats to harm them and 52 had faced threats of property damage.

Abuse has left 36 politicians afraid to go out in public, put marriages under strain and led to some being treated for depression and anxiety, experts found.

Of the 192 MPs who said they had experienced problems, half had been targeted in their own homes.

Comments from the MPs who took part included:

  • "pulled a knife on me in the surgery"

  • "repeatedly punched in the face"

  • "came at me with a hammer"

  • "hit with a brick"

  • "shot with air rifle"

  • "petrol poured through letter box"

Others told of threats made either directly to MPs or members of their family, including:

  • "There were numerous reports of death threats, both in person and by mail, and of bomb threats"

  • "you'd better keep an eye on your children"

  • "wife received phone calls saying 'I am going to kill you or one of your family'"

The report, published in the Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, added: "One MP described how his marriage was close to breakdown, as his wife blamed him for the persistent amorous intrusions of a female constituent."

Labour MP Stephen Timms after leaving the Royal London Hospital after recovering being stabbed twice in the stomach during a constituency surgery in 2010. Credit: PA

Harry Fletcher, director of Digital-Trust, a charity helping victims of cybercrime, told The Observer that MPs should be given more protection.

"The number of incidents and the large number of parliamentarians who have become victims is not acceptable. There needs to be an urgent review of their security and safety," he said.

But Labour MP Stephen Timms , who was stabbed twice in the stomach in 2010 by a woman who tried to murder him for voting for the Iraq war, suggested it would be difficult to ramp up security.

He told The Observer. "After what happened to me I was offered a knife arch for my surgeries, but I refused because that just makes it more difficult for people to come and see you.

"It isn't the MP I want to be."

The research was carried out by seven psychiatrists, including Dr David James, founder of the Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (FTAC) that assesses threats for high profile figures such as the Royal Family.

Surveys were circulated to MPs by chief party whips but only 239 of the 633 MPs (38%) responded but the response rate was described by the sergeant at arms as "unusually good".

The Metropolitan Police run the FTAC alongside the Department of Health, with the Home Office sharing its funding. The report was commissioned independently of the Home Office, a spokeswoman said.