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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 December, 2003, 12:07 GMT
Pledge over 999 attacks
Ambulance staff
Ambulance staff are among those the executive wants to protect
Tougher jail sentences and hefty fines could face those who attack or obstruct 999 workers, the Scottish Executive has warned.

Public Services Minister Andy Kerr said plans were in the pipeline to give workers such as paramedics and coastguard staff more legal protection.

Unions and opposition MSPs say they hope the measures will not end at the doors of accident and emergency units.

They say they want to see all health and emergency workers protected.

Those currently convicted under the Police (Scotland) Act can be jailed for nine months and or fined up to 5,000.

The new legislative proposals would also impose tough new penalties on hoax callers who endanger the lives of emergency staff and those genuinely in need of help.

The executive greatly values the dedication of our emergency workers - they literally have a life-or-death job
Andy Kerr
Public Services Minister
A new provision extending the protection for firefighters is due to be included in the Fire Services Bill to be introduced to parliament next year.

Mr Kerr is due to launch a three-month consultation on the plans during a visit to the Scottish Ambulance's Service's Lothian headquarters in Edinburgh on Monday.

Mr Kerr said: "The executive greatly values the dedication of our emergency workers; they literally have a life-or-death job and should be able to carry out these important duties without fear of attack.

"There have, however, been a worrying number of brutal and callous attacks on emergency workers.

"They have been physically attacked, shot at with air rifles, chemicals have been sprayed in their faces, fireworks, bricks and bottles have been thrown at them and their equipment.

"This is completely unacceptable - and the executive will not tolerate it.

Aggravated assault

"That is why we are bringing forward proposals to tackle the issue."

Mr Kerr insisted that hoax emergency calls were "no laughing matter", adding: "The attack may be carried out by third parties or the hoax may even be the preface to a premeditated assault on the emergency services who are lured to the scene.

"Although the emergency call may be fake, it is important that the legislation should cover emergency workers in these situations."

But Scottish National Party health spokeswoman Shona Robison said people charged with attacking a health worker should be prosecuted for aggravated assault.

"We think this should be extended to doctors and nurses," Ms Robison said.

Matt Smith, Scottish secretary of health union Unison, told the Sunday Herald: "There is a growing trend of assaults throughout the public services, and we want to continue our discussions with the executive to ensure that all staff who face this problem are given adequate protection."




WATCH AND LISTEN
David Henderson reports
"Scotland's emergency services are under attack"



SEE ALSO:
Call to protect NHS staff
16 Oct 03  |  Scotland
New fears over 999 abuse
19 Nov 03  |  Bristol/Somerset


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