Police officer assaulted 100 times on duty welcomes new law protecting emergency staff
- Credit: Archant
A Suffolk police officer who has been assaulted around 100 times in 17 years while working on the front line in Ipswich has welcomed a new law increasing the penalty for attacking emergency staff.
PC Andrew Overton, who works as a response officer, has been punched, kicked, headbutted and even bitten, in the line of duty.
He said: “They range from a bog standard push to the most serious assault where I was headbutted, which knocked out my teeth and gave me a broken nose.
“I have also been kicked in the hand which damaged all the ligaments and took me out of work for months.
“I am married with three children, all under nine, and it has an effect on them when dad comes home with broken bones or black eyes.
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“They worry about dad going to work and what is going to happen.
“But I don’t cover it up, I try and tell them as much as I can without frightening them.
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“I understand it is part of my role, I meet some people at a low point in their lives who lash out at us, but for ambulance and fire staff who are just there to help I don’t understand it.”
PC Overton said the new Protect the Protectors bill, which increases the maximum jail sentence for assaulting an emergency worker from six months to a year, will help protect ambulance, fire and police staff.
“The bill will act as a deterrent,” he said.
“It will send out a very clear message that the law is protecting emergency services staff.
“If people are aware that any assault on emergency staff will be taken more seriously it may just cause people to think before they act.”
Suffolk police federation chairman Darren Harris said: “It’s great news the Protect the Protectors bill has gone through because it doubles the punishments.
“It’s not as strong or punitive as we would like, so we need to follow this up with the court system and send a strong message that deters people from these acts of violence.
Ipswich MP Sandy Martin added: “It’s sickening and I am incredulous about the attitude of some people who think it’s okay to attack people who are there to help them.
“We need to encourage people to behave properly but at the same time we need to be realistic and recognise some people are not going to change, that’s why it’s welcome news that this law will help protect them.”
Ambulance service welcomes new law with ‘open arms’
The chief executive of the county’s ambulance trust described abuse against staff as unacceptable.
Robert Morton, East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) chief executive, said he and other colleagues in the emergency services had been pushing for tougher sentences for assaults on staff and he was pleased this was now on the statutes.
He said: “Ambulance staff save lives and protect the vulnerable.
“It is totally unacceptable that they face any form of violence or aggression, when they are trying to do their best for our patients.”
The ambulance service said in a tweet that they welcomed the new law “with open arms”.
Mr Morton added: “Having seen first hand the impact violence and aggression has on my colleagues, I will continue to work closely with the police to ensure that the strongest action is taken against those who assault them.”
The EEAST campaign Don’t Choose To Abuse highlights the impact of assault on staff.
Assaults on firefighters impact their ability to provide the service
Suffolk’s chief fire officer Mark Hardingham said he was pleased the new law has been passed.
He said: “We welcome the Emergency Services Bill receiving Royal Assent this week.
“Whilst attacks on firefighters in Suffolk are uncommon they do occasionally happen.
“In other parts of the country these attacks on firefighters and other emergency service workers are far more prevalent and I’m pleased that the sanctions have been increased to reflect the impact of the crime.
“Firefighters and emergency service workers are here to help the public, so when they are attacked carrying out this role it not only places them in danger but it impacts on their ability to provide the service that is often in desperate need.”