Assaults on council staff

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THE shocking number of physical attacks on council staff revealed in the Yorkshire Post today is a matter of serious concern. It is utterly unacceptable that hard-working, conscientious staff in schools, social services and other local authority posts should be subjected to violence.

Regrettably, such attacks appear to be commonplace. The statistics in Leeds, for example, where the number of assaults in schools averages six every day, are a reflection of an increasingly lawless, undisciplined strata of society with an embedded culture of boorishness and aggression. Schools in particular have long grappled with the problems of dealing with children who have no structure or discipline in the home and bring disruption to the classroom. Any attempt by teachers to impose discipline is often enough greeted with outrage by parents who side with their loutish progeny.

The problem, though, goes far beyond schools. Council workers across the whole range of departments are being assaulted. What makes this especially galling is that these are the people who make our towns and cities run, and help our most vulnerable residents, whether it be as care workers or refuse collectors. While having every sympathy with the union Unison’s call for greater protection for workers, it is difficult to envisage how this could be practically achieved.

The real answer to dealing with those who would attack council staff, and tackling the culture behind such assaults, lies with the criminal law and the courts system. Every single assault should be treated as the criminal offence that it is, and be vigorously investigated and prosecuted.

The courts should recognise the seriousness of assaults upon those merely doing their job, and sentence with appropriate sternness, whether the punishments handed down are custodial or community-based.

Firm sentencing would send out a message that these assaults will not be tolerated and hopefully act as a deterrent.

There is something else that could be done: if those found guilty of assaults are in receipt of any form of benefits from the council whose employee they have attacked, those benefits should be immediately withdrawn.