When paramedics Jo Robb and Paul Snow were called to a house in Portchester on Boxing Day, they saw a middle-aged man collapsed on the floor. With compassion and care, they helped him up and began to carry out checks to assess his condition.
But instead of thanks from their patient, who had been drinking, all they got was aggression. He grabbed Jo’s wrist, twisted it and then threatened to break it. Then when Paul went to the aid of his colleague, he got punched in the face and had to pin the man to the ground until police arrived to arrest him.
This shocking incident shows just what ambulance staff have to deal with in the course of their duties.
A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed that 23 paramedics in Hampshire have been hit or threatened with violence in the past three years. Add to this the 249 police officers assaulted in the same period and 15 firefighters in the county being attacked last year alone and an alarming picture emerges.
It is completely unacceptable for the emergency services to have to put up with this sort of behaviour while trying to do their jobs. We agree with the paramedics union, the Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel, which is calling for a zero tolerance policy where such assaults are concerned.
The people who commit them should receive tough sentences that send out a message. But it seems that all too often people are receiving punishments that do not fit the crime.
In the case of the man who attacked the paramedics in Portchester, he ended up receiving a caution because it was felt by the courts that he had shown remorse by writing a letter of apology.
But this was a serious incident and we believe he deserved harsher treatment. Whether he was drunk at the time is irrelevant. Two people who arrived at his home to help him were treated appallingly.
Anybody who assaults paramedics, police or firefighters should be getting custodial sentences, not sympathy.