In Depth

Attacks on emergency workers in five shameful statistics

MP decries ‘national scandal’ as new law doubles prison time for assailants

Prison sentences for criminals who attack emergency service workers are set to double as part of a new law due to be signed off today.

Under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act, the maximum sentence for assaulting ambulance workers, NHS staff, firefighters, prison officers or police will increase from six months to a year.

Labour MP Chris Bryant described the “growing tide of attacks” as a “national scandal”.

Presenting the private members’ bill, he said: “All too often, attackers get away with little more than a slap on the wrist. I hope this new law will help put a stop to that attitude.”

Here are some of the shocking figures highlighting the extent of the scandal:

More than 70 police officers attacked a day

Home Office data for forces across England and Wales show that 26,295 police officers were assaulted on duty in 2017-18, marking a 34% rise over five years. This translates to 72 attacks a day, or an attack every 20 minutes, reports The Daily Telegraph. And the true figure is thought to be even higher, as not every assault is reported.

Seven in ten ambulance workers assaulted on duty

Ambulance workers faced more than 14,000 physical assaults from 2012-13 to January 2018, according to figures from trade union GMB. Staff have been left with bite marks, stab wounds and broken bones. Some have had blood spat at them by intravenous drug users, and others have had cars driven at them. A total of 72% of ambulance workers have been attacked while on duty, the union reports.

75,000 violent incidents across NHS England

Data obtained by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) on behalf of the Unison union shows that physical assaults on NHS staff increased by nearly 10% last year. Based on figures from about three-quarters of the English trusts, a total of 56,435 physical assaults on staff were reported in 2016-17. If those figures are extrapolated to cover the whole of England, the total number of assaults was probably close to 75,000.

A quarter of attacks on firefighters involved flying objects

A total of 738 attacks on firefighters were reported in 2016-17, an increase of 116 on the previous year, Home Office data reveals. Of these latest attacks, 28% involved objects being thrown at firefighters.

Two prison officers in A&E every day

According to the Prison Officers’ Association (POA), two prison officers require treatment in A&E each day, on average, as a result of being attacked by inmates, reports The Independent. A total of 8,429 assaults against prison officers were reported in 2017, a 25% increase on the previous year. One prison guard told the BBC: “Officers are being assaulted, punched, boiling water poured in their faces - on a regular basis. I was punched, then excrement thrown in my face. He’d [the prisoner] basically put excrement in a bag, he ran up behind me and shoved it in my face. Eyes, nose, mouth.”

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