West Yorkshire’s blue light services are standing together in support of new laws to give police, firefighters and paramedics better protection against attacks while on duty.
And they are asking for the public's support as the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill is read for the third time in the House of Commons on Friday.
Read more: The Yorkshire Post says 'Use full force of law to protect the protectors'
The third reading marks a significant milestone for the private members’ bill, which will bring in harsher penalties against those convicted of attacks on emergency crews.
During 2017/18 alone, operational firefighters from West Yorkshire have come under attack almost 100 times - and non-operational staff suffered six incidents of violence towards them.
West Yorkshire Police recorded 1,741 assaults on employees during the same period, while 840 incidents of verbal and physical abuse against Yorkshire Ambulance Service staff were reported.
Fire service: 'We see mindless people using fireworks as weapons'
Chief Fire Officer John Roberts said: “We are pleased to see the bill, coined ‘Protect the Protectors’, enter into its final stages in the House of Commons before it progresses through to the House of Lords where hopefully it will achieve royal assent.
“West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has been campaigning hard to raise awareness of what our emergency crews have to face when trying to protect people from harm.
“They are pelted with stones and sometimes bricks, and over the bonfire period we see mindless people using fireworks as weapons against them – it is disgusting behaviour and it needs to stop.
“We hope that with the support of parliament the emergency services can be better protected against acts of mindless violence towards them and we hope MPs and the general public will give this bill their full backing.”
Police: 'Being spat at, wrestled, hit and kicked should not be part of the day job'
Chief Constable Dee Collins, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “You join the police force to protect others from harm but unfortunately we are increasingly seeing frontline officers and staff subjected to violent attacks as they work to keep our communities safe.
“It is estimated that nationally a police officer is assaulted every four minutes. This is simply unacceptable. Being spat at, wrestled, hit and kicked should not be part of the day job.
“The uniform shouldn’t be seen as a reason to attack someone but, quite the opposite, it should be a reason not to.
"We strongly support the tougher sanctions that the ‘Protect the Protectors’ bill would put in place for those who attack police and other emergency services and urge MPs to give it their full support.”
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Ambulance service: 'There is never an excuse for abusing the people who work so hard to help others'
Stephen Segasby, Deputy Director of Operations at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “Everyone working in the emergency services does a difficult job, often in challenging circumstances.
"Physical and verbal abuse against any member of staff is completely unacceptable and we are doing everything we can to prevent this.
“We actively encourage staff to report all incidents of violent and aggressive behaviour and this includes any aspects of abuse, however minor. Action will be taken against anyone who attacks our staff.
“Along with our colleagues at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and West Yorkshire Police, we welcome the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill to protect the protectors and hope that it will act as a deterrent, reinforcing our message that there is never an excuse for abusing the people who work so hard to help others in times of need.”
What would the Bill do?
The Bill would:
introduce a new triable either way offence of assault or battery committed against an emergency worker, with a maximum penalty of a 12 month prison sentence when tried in the Crown court;
introduce a statutory aggravating factor for the courts to consider when sentencing certain assaults against emergency workers;
enable bodily samples to be taken from persons suspected of offences against emergency workers which may pose a risk of the transmission of an infectious disease.
How can you show your support?
You can sign the Police Federation petition and add your name to more than 40,000 who have already given their suppoty.
You can also show your support on social media by joining the Protect the Protectors Thunderclap which will take the message out across Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.