Chief slams weekly 'disgrace' of attacks on emergency service workers in North East as she reacts to plans for tougher sentencing

Punishments for anyone who attacks firefighters, police or paramedics could be doubled under government plans, following demands for action from the region’s chiefs.

Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 3:38 pm
Northumbria Police & Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness.

But while minister’s current proposal falls short of automatic custodial sentences, they have been praised as a step in the right direction.

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Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness and Tyne and Wear Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther

“We absolutely need tougher sentences for those who help our families and save our lives.

“Nobody goes to work to get assaulted but it happens far too often.

“Not a week goes by where we don’t hear about incidents, throughout the North East, where police officers and staff, and other emergency workers, get spat at, have stones thrown at them or are even physically assaulted.

“It’s a disgrace that they get treated like this and it has to stop.”

Firefighters in Tyne and Wear have said they will not go into parts of Sunderland without a police escort following a spate of attacks and ambushes which have seen children as young as 10 hurling rocks and stones at crews.

Speaking at a meeting of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority, CFO Lowther claimed existing sentencing powers were insufficient.

Speaking to the committee, which oversees the work of firefighters in the area, he cited an example from 2017 in which a firefighter had his nose broken after being punched in the face while tackling a blaze.

The man responsible was handed a fine.

Reacting to the sentencing news, CFO Lowther said: "The vast majority of people are shocked and appalled to hear that firefighters are being attacked while doing their job and rightly so.

"Today’s announcement is certainly a step in the right direction and I hope that we start to see these tougher sentences being handed out.

"We need a real deterrent for that small minority who think it’s acceptable to be violent or abusive towards emergency service workers.

"Firefighters and their blue light colleagues are not invincible – they work hard to keep people safe and they deserve respect."

Announcing plans which could see maximum jail terms for attacks on emergency service workers extended to two years, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Some despicable individuals still think it’s acceptable to attack, cough or spit at these courageous public servants.

“This new law sends a clear and simple message to these vile thugs – you will not get away with such appalling behaviour and you will be subject to the force of the law.”

Plans in the government's new Sentencing White Paper, due to be published on Wednesday, September 16, could see maximum jail terms for attacks on emergency service workers extended to two years.

The proposed law change would force judges to consider whether the targeting of emergency services workers was an 'aggravating factor' in a crime when passing sentence.

In 2019, more than 11,000 people were prosecuted for assaulting an emergency worker.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Some despicable individuals still think it’s acceptable to attack, cough or spit at these courageous public servants.

“This new law sends a clear and simple message to these vile thugs – you will not get away with such appalling behaviour and you will be subject to the force of the law.”

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