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New laws get tougher on thugs who attack emergency services workers - and it’s about time

Tens of thousands of emergency services workers are attacked in the UK every year. Mathew Colley, LONEALERT’s Sales & Marketing Manager, says it is a positive step that the thugs responsible could see their sentences doubled.

Attacks on the emergency services workers are all too commonplace. In fact, not a week seems to pass without news of yet another hero on the frontline being physically attacked or verbally abused whilst going about their job to keep the rest of us safe.

A quick browse down your Twitter timeline and you may find that yet another paramedic has been spat at by an an-gry patient as they attempt to get them to safety. Pick up the newspaper and you may see that a police officer has been beaten unconscious by an intoxicated yob. Turn on the news and you may see dashboard footage of a fire en-gine being pelted with stones on the way to an emergency call.

It’s a worrying fact that across the country, there are hundreds of these assaults taking place EVERY DAY - before we even take into account the thousands of incidents that go unreported.

Latest statistics show that around 72 police officers are attacked attacked every day in England and Wales, which translates to an attack every 20 minutes. Home Office data from all 44 police forces found that a total of 26,295 police constables were assaulted on duty between April 2017 to April this year - a 34 per cent rise from fig-ures from 2013, when a total of 19,670 police officers were attacked while in uniform and a rise of 10 per cent on last year, where just under 24,000 cops were assaulted.

Recent years have seen an increase in assaults on emergency workers in other areas too, with official Government fig-ures reporting more than 17,000 assaults on NHS staff, as well as a shocking 70% increase in assaults on prison of-ficers in the three years to 2017 and an 18% increase in assaults and attacks experienced by firefighters in the past two years.

In the words of one veteran paramedic:

The uniform used to be viewed as a protection - people knew i was there to do a job and wouldn’t touch me. Now they treat it as a target.

Just weeks ago a court heard that a paramedic had been so violently assaulted by a person she was called to help during a shift that she developed PTSD as a result. Paula Kudray punched the emergency worker in the arm before lashing out at her and her colleague. She kicked, punched, spat at and bit both paramedics after she ‘suddenly snapped’ while intoxicated.

Kudray pleaded guilty to two charges of common assault at Manchester Magistrates court and was sentenced to a 12-month community order with a requirement to undertake 15 days of rehabilitation activity and complete a mental health treatment programme. (https://metro.co.uk/2018/07/17/drunk-woman-attacked-paramedics-tried-help-street-7726508/)

But with the victim left with mental scars that are taking much longer to heal than her physical wounds - and forced to seriously consider quitting the 19-year-career she loved, can this really be considered a strong enough sentence?

In another case, paramedic Paul Turner, 36, told how he had learnt martial arts to protect himself after ‘several’ assaults whilst on the job, including once incident where he was viciously attacked on duty after being called to help an injured man in Lancaster city centre. (https://news.sky.com/story/paramedic-ive-learnt-martial-arts-to-defend-myself-after-ambulance-attacks-11495927)

Meanwhile, PC Dan Taylor, who has been with Norfolk Constabulary for nine years, has revealed he has been assault-ed 11 times in the last year alone - revealing that on one occasion he was offered just £1 in compensation from the courts, after the partner of a drink driver he was arresting near HMP Norwich in September 2017 assaulted him and a colleague. (http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/crime/new-law-tougher-sentences-assualts-emergency-staff-1-5693221)

Jane Carroll, a senior Royal College of Nursing officer, also came forward with her own personal experiences to tell the BBC how she was attacked while out on a home visit.

He was circling me and shouting at me and as I opened the door two hands came very hard on my back. I fell over and took the skin off my knees

she said.

"I sat in my car and cried for a little while but realised I couldn't stay there because I felt vulnerable. When you go into your shift you don't expect to have to deal with the police," she added.

This is just a tiny insight into the worrying national picture as the list goes on and on. Every day, emergency services workers putting their lives on the line are being verbally and physically attacked and abused by the very people they dedicate their lives to helping.

It is therefore not before time that new laws are now to be introduced meaning those thugs responsible will receive tougher sentences for their crimes.

Under existing laws, those who attack emergency workers are typically charged with common assault, which carries a maximum six-month jail sentence. But the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill will double the maximum sen-tence for those who assault police, firefighters and NHS staff while on duty.

The legislation - which was originally put forward by former Labour minister Chris Bryant and received cross-party sup-port before receiving Royal Assent today (Sep 13) - will also require judges to consider the fact that a victim is an emergency worker as an aggravating factor in more serious assaults – putting it on a par with hate crimes. Police offic-ers, custody officers, fire and rescue service workers or volunteers, search and rescue service workers or volunteers and anyone engaged in providing NHS health services, such as community and district nurses, are among those covered by the new legislation, which will come into force in November.

Mr Bryant said said the "growing tide of attacks" on emergency staff was a "national scandal” and that currently, at-tackers were all too often getting away with “little more than a slap on the wrist”.

”I hope this new law will help put a stop to that attitude,” he added.

An attack on an emergency worker is an attack on all of us.

It is vital that our beloved emergency service personnel who dedicate their working lives to helping others are able to carry out their duties without fear of abuse or violence - and that the thugs who think it’s acceptable to attack our he-roes on the frontline feel the full force of the law.

For many emergency services workers, assaults have sadly become part of the job. This bill is the first positive step to-wards changing that for good.

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  • Last modified on Friday, 14 September 2018 14:13
Mathew Colley

Mathew Colley is the Sales & Marketing Manager at LONEALERT, leading supplier of lone worker protection solutions and lone worker alarms to protect staff who work remotely, alone or are vulnerable.

Website: www.lonealert.co.uk

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