New figures show 58 attacks on north east firefighters in 2018/19

Firefighters in the north east came under attack on average around five times per month last year, shocking new figures reveal

By Claire Wilde
Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 12:16 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 2:47 pm

Sign up to our daily newsletter

There were at least 58 attacks on north east firefighters during 2018/19.
There were at least 58 attacks on north east firefighters during 2018/19.

New figures obtained by JPIMedia Data Unit via Freedom of Information requests to brigades across the region show there were 58 reported attacks on firefighters during 2018/19.

Cleveland Fire Brigade said there had been 38 attacks on firefighters, with Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service (12) and County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (eight) also reporting numerous incidents.

However, the figure for the region could be even higher with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service not responding to the FOI request.

There were more than 900 attacks on firefighters responding to emergencies across the UK, roughly the same number as the year before. Firefighters say attacks often intensify around Bonfire Night.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Figures obtained from 49 of the UK’s 50 fire services show crews were physically abused more than 70 times and had fireworks or missiles thrown at them more than 200 times in 2018/19. At least nine firefighters were injured.

In both Hartlepool and Durham, there were two attacks reported in which objects were thrown at firefighters/appliances. Single attacks of a similar nature were also recorded in both Peterlee and Seaham.

In Northumberland, there were five recorded cases of West Hartford firefighters being subjected to verbal abuse and one report involving physical abuse. There were also three reported attacks on Pegswood firefighters, including two of verbal abuse.

The attacks have occurred despite the introduction of a law in England and Wales last November which doubled the maximum prison terms for assaulting blue light workers from six months to a year.

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who spearheaded the so-called Protect the Protectors law by tabling a Private Members Bill, said he feared the justice system was “still not taking this seriously enough and the courts have still not taken on board the fact that this law is in place”.

He said: “We need a complete zero-tolerance attitude towards any kind of violence towards our emergency workers. Any assault on them is an assault on all of us.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Being attacked should never be part of the job for our firefighters, which is why we have been clear about the need for better protection and stronger sentences.”

Across the UK, there were at least 911 attacks on firefighters responding to emergencies reported in 2018/19, roughly the same number as was seen the year before.

Attacks in 2018/19 included at least 76 in which firefighters were physically abused, at least 219 in which missiles were thrown at fire crews or fire engines and at least 441 in which staff were subjected to verbal abuse.

Only four fire services reported no attacks in 2018/19. These were: Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, Isles of Scilly Fire and Rescue Service and West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.