Northamptonshire firefighters face attacks at emergency incidents

Attacks on firefighters in Northamptonshire were four times higher than last year despite the introduction of a law to protect emergency workers.

Monday, 28th October 2019, 6:00 pm
A freedom of information request revealed the figures

Firefighters in Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service were attacked eight times in 2018/19 compared to just two attacks the previous year.

Figures from a Freedom of Information request show the service responded to 5,557 incidents this year and firefighters were verbally abused five times and physically abused three times.

There were two abuse incidents in Kettering, both of which were verbal while in Wellingborough, there was one verbal incident and one physical.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Firefighters are being attacked on the job

All other recorded attacks were in Northampton wards.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Dr Shaun Hallam, said: “On a daily basis, our firefighters deal with very difficult and challenging situations, often putting themselves in harm’s way to protect the public, and they should be able to carry out their duties as safely as possible.

“Being assaulted is not and should never be regarded as ‘part of the job’. Thankfully, attacks on firefighters are low in Northamptonshire but we will not tolerate any sort of abusive language or behaviour towards any of our firefighters and will always pursue police action against the perpetrators.”

The attacks in 2018/19 follow the introduction of a new law that introduced tougher sentences for those who assault blue-light workers when they are responding to emergency situations.

The new law came into force in England and Wales last November and doubled the maximum prison terms for assaulting emergency services staff from six months to a year.

Despite this, there were more than 900 attacks on firefighters responding to emergencies across the UK this year and firefighters say attacks often intensify around Bonfire Night.

Figures from 49 of the UK's 50 fire services show crews had fireworks or missiles thrown at them more than 200 times in 2018/19.

Nine firefighters were injured after attacks.

Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda, Wales, spearheaded the so-called Protect the Protectors law by tabling a Private Members Bills, said: "My fear is that the police and the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) are still not taking this seriously enough and the courts have still not taken on board the fact that this law is in place.

"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.”

A similar law was introduced in Scotland in 2005 but attacks on firefighters have risen by a third (36 per cent) in just a year.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “All attacks against our emergency services, including our fire and rescue service officers, are despicable and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms. There will be a zero tolerance approach to attacks on our firefighters.”

In Northern Ireland, attacks on firefighters hit a five-year low of 93 in 2018/19 but this was still higher than in either Scotland or Wales.

Assaulting a firefighter in Northern Ireland can result in two years’ jail, and the Department of Justice said it would soon be reviewing sentencing for attacks on frontline public services.