THE GOVERNMENT has been urged to ensure harsher punishments for the “staggering” number of attacks on emergency service workers are enshrined in law as new figures show there have been more than 6,000 assaults on police officers, firefighters and front-line NHS staff in the region in just two years
Police have been rammed by cars, headbutted and scalded; firefighters subjected to racial abuse and missiles and fireworks and an ambulance technician sexually assaulted in her vehicle – all while trying to help the public, data uncovered by The Yorkshire Post shows.
The harrowing incidents are revealed just weeks before MPs will vote on a new Bill, spearheaded by Halifax MP Holly Lynch, that will introduce harsher punishments on those who inflict abuse against emergency workers.
The Assaults on Emergency Service Workers Bill, inspired by Ms Lynch’s Protect the Protectors campaign, will give judges greater powers to impose longer custodial sentences in the hope that the guidelines will act as a more effective deterrent.
Figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act show that across Yorkshire in 2016 and 2017, there were 2,471 attacks on police officers; 317 instances of abuse on firefighters and 1,629 attacks on Yorkshire Ambulance Service staff. There were 1,895 attacks on staff at hospital trusts across the region in 2017 alone. The true figure is even larger as some organisations were not able to provide full accounts of incidents.
Ms Lynch, who began campaigning after witnessing the abuse of an officer when she spent a night shift with police in Ovenden in summer 2016, said: “I am all too familiar with the risks that emergency workers face on a daily basis, but even I am incredibly saddened, disappointed and angry to hear the staggering scale of the problem in Yorkshire. “
West Yorkshire Police, the largest force in the region, saw the highest number of attacks against its officers, with 2,061 incidents from October 2016 to December 2017. The fire service in West Yorkshire saw 208 attacks, including 12 physical attacks.
The region’s police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson is chairman of the Tri-Services (Police, Fire and Ambulance) Collaboration Board. WYP recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, pledging to crack down on perpetrators after a “spike” in incidents over the last two years.
Mr Burns-Williamson said: “Collectively we are coming together, but the Government must make time to ensure this Bill goes through. It’s sad that we are having to do this, but it has reached a point where it needs to be done.”
Nick Smart, chairman of West Yorkshire Police Federation, which has campaigned in support of the bill, said: “It’s no longer a question of if, but when, we will see a fatality.”
The Government said assaults on emergency workers were “unacceptable”, and that the increase in penalties would show these attacks “will not be tolerated”.