Under attack - but we’re let down by the courts

2/2/12   PM''South Central Ambulance Service workers L-R Jo Robb and Paul Snow who were attacked by a patient and only got a caution for it. Pictured at Havant Amblance station.''Picture: Paul Jacobs (120394-9)
2/2/12 PM''South Central Ambulance Service workers L-R Jo Robb and Paul Snow who were attacked by a patient and only got a caution for it. Pictured at Havant Amblance station.''Picture: Paul Jacobs (120394-9)
Bob Higgins at an earlier court hearing  Picture Habibur Rahman/Solent News

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THEY help us when we’re in need of urgent or emergency care _ yet ambulance staff, police officers and firefighters run the risk of being attacked while trying to carry out their jobs.

A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed in the past three years 249 police officers have been assaulted.

Last year 15 firefighters in the county were attacked.

And in the past three years 23 ambulance workers were hit or threatened with violence.

But unions say some attackers are getting away lightly and are now calling for tougher sentences.

Paramedics Jo Robb and Paul Snow, who are based at Havant Ambulance Station, were assaulted on Boxing Day last year when they were called to a home in Portchester.

Jo, 40, said: ‘We got a call that a middle-aged man had collapsed in his home. We walked in and he was on the floor.

‘We helped him up and carried out our observations – it was clear he had been drinking.

‘Then he grabbed my arm and twisted it and said he would break it.

‘He just lashed out. It was a shock to the system and I was quite shook up.

‘Then the next day it made me quite angry that we had been called to this incident and it had taken an ambulance off the street.’

The man also punched Mr Snow in the face when he went to the aid of this colleague.

He managed to pin the man to the ground before police arrived and arrested him.

The man was cautioned and wrote a letter of apology to the paramedics, but Paul, 44, said the penalty needed to be tougher.

‘This is not what our job is about,’ he said.

‘The man got a caution because he had shown remorse and wrote a letter of apology, but it doesn’t feel like enough.

‘I have gone through all that training and want to help people.

‘To be treated like that is quite upsetting – I just want to get my job done.’

Paramedic union the Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel says harsher sentences must be given.

Spokesman Jonathan Fox said: ‘We want a zero-tolerance policy, but it’s up to the courts to make the appropriate decision. The punishment should fit the crime and ensure no abuse is excusable.’

Portsmouth District Commander Norman Mellors said: ‘Assaults on emergency services staff will be taken very seriously as are all reports of assault.’

The number of attacks on emergency services in the Portsmouth area last year:

South Central Ambulance Service recorded six assaults on staff between January to October.

It also recorded three incidents where ambulances were vandalised.

Hampshire Constabulary recorded 50 attacks to police officers in Portsmouth from January to October, along with seven vehicles being damaged.

In the Fareham, Gosport and Havant areas 40 assaults were reported and four vehicles damaged.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service says 15 firefighters were attacked in the county.