An act of bravery that is worthy of an award

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Picture the scene: children and their mothers screaming in fright as, without warning, terror descends on a park in Portsmouth.

One moment youngsters are happily playing in the sun, the next they are confronted by the sight of a man who has doused himself in petrol and is threatening to set himself alight.

Now imagine that, at just a moment’s notice, it is down to you to do something to try to stop an impending tragedy that will cost an unfortunate man his life and leave indelible scars on the minds of those children.

Frightening, isn’t it?

Yet that was exactly the position in which police constables Michael Nol and Steven Males found themselves one morning last April.

Called to College Park in Copnor, they arrived to find the man ‘having a shower’ in petrol, as one of them put it.

Neither officer flinched in the face of huge danger. Just as the poor man tried to use his lighter to set himself alight, they threw themselves at him to prevent him from doing so.

Even in the chaos of the moment, they must have known that they were in grave danger of being caught in a potentially-fatal conflagration.

But their instinct and their training kicked in. They stayed cool and restrained the man.

They are well worthy of the national bravery award for which they have been nominated.

And they stand today as shining examples of the sort of valour and dedication to duty that is shown day after day by selfless members of all our emergency services – police officers, firefighters, paramedics, lifeboatmen, coastguards et al.

These are not easy times for the police, fire and ambulance services, with the effects of budget cuts having far-reaching consequences.

It is right that we question the ability of organisations to properly fulfil their particular roles with fewer resources.

But at the same time, we should not forget that we are fortunate to have public servants such as Michael Nol and Steven Males who will not flinch at the challenge of protecting life and limb in the face of extreme danger.