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County’s emergency services welcome tough sentences for assaults

PUBLISHED: 17:22 13 September 2018 | UPDATED: 17:35 13 September 2018

Chief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve Adams

Chief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve Adams

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015

Norfolk’s emergency services chiefs have welcomed a new law which will double the maximum sentence for anyone convicted of assaulting an emergency service worker to twelve months.

Norfolk’s emergency services chiefs have welcomed a new law which will double the maximum sentence for anyone convicted of assaulting an emergency service worker to twelve months.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill received Royal Assent on Thursday, September 13, and will come into force in November.

The crackdown comes just months after Home Office figures revealed a 32pc rise in assaults on police officers in Norfolk, with 515 attacks recorded between April 2017 and March 2018.

The figures equate to a further 125 officers assaulted, compared to the 390 assaults in 2016-17.

PC Dan Taylor. Picture: Norfolk PolicePC Dan Taylor. Picture: Norfolk Police

Chief constable Simon Bailey said the increase was significant.

He said: “When you look at the profile of these assaults on some of our colleagues, careers are being ended.

“We are not talking about pushing and shoving here.”

“The figures are really worrying - 132 assaults caused injuries and 19 of these were offences of malicious wounding or GBH.

The ambulance control room in Hellesdon.
Chief Executive Robert Morton.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2017The ambulance control room in Hellesdon. Chief Executive Robert Morton. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

“I hope this sends a very strong message to anyone contemplating assaulting a police officer.”

Andy Symonds, chair of the Norfolk Police Federation, welcomed the new law.

He said: “Being assaulted, whether you are a police officer, firefighter, prison officer or paramedic, must never be seen as part of the job and the sentences should be harsher.”

PC Dan Taylor, who has been with Norfolk Constabulary for nine years, told this newspaper in April that he had been assaulted 11 times in the last year alone.

He said on one occasion he was offered just £1 in compensation from the courts, after he was assaulted while arresting a drink driver, which he described as “a kick in the teeth”.

PC Ollie Gilder was knocked unconscious following an punch to the head in King’s Lynn which was caught on CCTV in 2016.

He told this newspaper the following year the incident made him question a career in policing.

Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner, Lorne Green, said: ““I consider that we have an important duty as public officials to do all we can to protect our protectors.

PC Gilder was carrying out public order patrols in Kings Lynn town centre in 2016 when he was knocked unconscious in an unprovoked attack. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary.PC Gilder was carrying out public order patrols in Kings Lynn town centre in 2016 when he was knocked unconscious in an unprovoked attack. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary.

“Assaults against officers and staff should not be ‘just a part of the job’ and I have great admiration for any officer that exposes him or herself to the danger that comes with working on the frontline.”

He added: “However, we need our police officers and other emergency workers on the frontline, not sitting as patients in hospital.

“We need our police officers and other emergency workers on duty, not absent on sick leave.

“While I welcome changes to the bill I still would like to see the maximum sentence increased even further and not stop at just 12 months.”

EEAST reported last year that staff had sustained 256 assaults, an increase of more than 10pc from 2015/16, when there were 232 assaults.

One paramedic last year spoke out about his experience of being stabbed with a drug user’s needle when responding to a 999 call.

‘John’ said: “I was later to find out it had been used by three addicts that morning, all confirmed Hep C positive and one HIV positive.

“He was less than a foot away from me, I remember there was dirty cutlery including knives on the side and he was in such a rage I honestly thought ‘this is it’.

David Ashworth, Norfolk's chief fire officer. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYDavid Ashworth, Norfolk's chief fire officer. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“He lunged at me and spat directly in my face. I was covered in his spit and food that was in his mouth.”

He was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

Ambulance trust chief describes ‘unacceptable’ toll of violence on staff

The chief executive of the county’s ambulance trust described abuse against staff as unacceptable.

Robert Morton, East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) chief executive, said he and other colleagues in the emergency services had been pushing for tougher sentences for assault on staff and he was pleased this was now on the statutes.

Mr Morton said: “Ambulance staff save lives and protect the vulnerable.

“It is totally unacceptable that they face any form of violence or aggression, when they are trying to do their best for our patients.”

He added: “Having seen first hand the impact violence and aggression has on my colleagues, I will continue to work closely with the police to ensure that the strongest action is taken against those who assault them.”

The EEAST campaign Don’t Choose To Abuse highlights the impact of assault on staff.

And EEAST stated in a tweet that they welcomed the new law “with open arms”.

Fire service chief calls need for deterrent against attacks ‘sad’

The head of Norfolk’s fire service has described the need for longer sentences as a deterrent against attacks on emergency services staff as sad but necessary.

David Ashworth, chief fire officer at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service said: “We have had a handful of incidents where staff have been subjected to verbal and physical abuse while carrying out their duties.

“It is absolutely inappropriate for any emergency worker to be subject to abuse while trying to help people and we absolutely welcome this new legislation.”

Mr Ashworth added: “These incidents have a long lasting effect on our staff.

“People who experience abuse can lose confidence in their ability to carry out their duties.

“This can become a deep-seated problem.

“It is sad that this sort of deterrent is required but we need these safeguards because of the environment we work in.”

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