Fifty assaults in eight months on emergency service workers in Wigan

There have been 50 reports of assaults on police officers and other emergency service workers in Wigan
There have been 50 reports of assaults on police officers and other emergency service workers in Wigan

Fifty reports of assaults on police officers and other emergency service workers in Wigan were made in just eight months, it has been revealed.

A new offence with longer sentences for people who attack 999 staff was introduced in November 2018, in a bid to protect members of the emergency services.

A request to Greater Manchester Police, made under the Freedom of Information Act, has now revealed the new crime was recorded 14 times in Wigan between November 13, 2018, and July 8 last year.

Victims of attacks included paramedics, a firefighter, a medical technician and police staff, though the occupation was not always recorded by the police.

There were a further 36 reports for the separate offence of assault or assault by beating a police constable.

Details of all of the injuries were not noted, but they included a bloodied nose, bruising and swelling, a dislocated finger, a cut lip and loose tooth, and a sore chest.

A total of 32 people were charged in relation to the 50 offences, while restorative justice was used in two cases. A decision was still pending in several instances when the data was provided.

Supt Steve Keeley, from Greater Manchester Police, said: “Emergency workers work incredibly hard every day to help those in need and to help keep people safe, and it is unacceptable that some are subject to assault and injury when doing their job.

“Police officers are trained in managing conflict and this is part of the role – however, no-one should have to go to work in an occupation focussed on helping people and have to face violence.

“Any assault on an emergency worker is naturally concerning both for the service involved but also for the wider public who are depending on these services. The new legislation in the

Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 acknowledges this and, as sentencing for this as an aggravating factor becomes more widely known, this should act as a deterrent and the understanding that any assault on those trying to help us is an assault on us all.”

The new offence was introduced after ambulance bosses protested about the lenient term handed out to a Wigan man who attacked a paramedic.

Adam James, then 23, provoked outrage in November 2017 when he was given a 14-month suspended jail sentence after he broke Amy Holtom’s wrist.

She was also left with cuts and bruising to her lower legs after being kicked by James, who was wearing steel toe-capped footwear, while she tried to help him in Birmingham.

Leigh man Daniel Hilton, 29, of Hawthorne Grove, was the first person to be convicted under the new legislation after biting a police constable’s thigh as he responded to reports of a man with a knife.

He was jailed for three months at Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court in November 2018, just 14 days after the offence was introduced.

Victoria Gradwell, 31, of Upper Dicconson Street, Swinley, was given a community order by Wigan justices after she pleaded guilty to assaulting an emergency worker by beating at Wigan Infirmary, as well as criminal damage.

She had been ejected from the A&E waiting room and grabbed the face of a hospital security guard outside, pulling her glasses off and damaging them as they hit the floor.

Nationally, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has revealed it prosecuted more than 50 assaults a day in the first year of the new legislation.

Between November 2018 and 2019, almost 20,000 offences were charged under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act – three-quarters of which were assault by beating.

A review sample revealed nine in 10 assaults were against police officers – almost always when the attacker was intoxicated on drink or drugs and being arrested for an unrelated offence.

Spitting was common but the violence perpetrated was wide-ranging and included kicking, punching, head-butting, slapping and biting.

Ministry of Justice figures for 2018, based on the first cases to go through the courts, show a conviction rate of 90 per cent.

Max Hill QC, director of public prosecutions, said: “Emergency workers provide a vital public service – the fact they endure vile abuse like spitting and even physical assault in the course of their duties is appalling and unacceptable. These attacks must never be considered as ‘just part of the job’.

“These are serious crimes and it is encouraging to see our prosecutors have used the new legal powers to bring offenders to justice.”