23/05/2007

Attacks on emergency workers rising

Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey, says he will consider introducing legislation to deter attacks on emergency service staff.

Outlining the extent of the problem Mr McGimpsey said the number of attack on emergency workers over the past year are still on the rise despite increased publicity and public awareness. There were 5,926 attacks on health and social care workers last year an increase of 6%.

The Minister was speaking following an Assembly debate on a motion calling for him to make it an offence punishable by imprisonment for a period not exceeding nine months, or by a fine up to £5,000, or both, for all persons assaulting emergency workers engaged in the pursuit of their duty or impeding persons assisting such emergency workers.

Mr McGimpsey said: “It is appalling to imagine that those dedicated to saving lives and public service should be subjected to physical and verbal abuse while carrying out their jobs.

“Ambulance staff, doctors and nurses, the Fire and Rescue Service, the Prison Service and the PSNI have served all of the people of Northern Ireland without fear or favour over the thirty years of the troubles, it is unacceptable that they are increasingly the subject of attack or abuse.

“Emergency services staff must have confidence that they will receive the support of their employer when making a complaint against those who have attacked them.”

While recognising the need for tough legislation such as that introduced in Scotland in 2005 the Minister pointed to other ways in which attacks on emergency services staff could be deterred. Initiatives include publicity campaigns, personal alarms systems for lone workers, close circuit television and increased security in Accident and Emergency departments.

(JM/SP)

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