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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 January, 2004, 17:45 GMT
Drive to protect emergency staff
The executive is considering how best to protect NHS staff
People who attack emergency service workers can expect stiffer penalties if the Scottish Executive presses ahead with new legislation.

Public Services Minister Andy Kerr wants to give emergency workers statutory protection.

Consultation on measures that would make it a specific offence to assault emergency workers or make hoax calls is currently under way.

Mr Kerr said attacks on emergency workers would not be tolerated.

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

These are workers providing an essential service to society in difficult and dangerous circumstances
Andy Kerr
Public Services Minister
The consultation is not due to close until 6 February.

But MSPs want tough new laws extended to cover other public sector workers, including doctors and nurses.

The minister has said that the executive would introduce measures to help protect other public sector workers, including more CCTV, better training and awareness campaigns.

'Lives at risk'

Speaking after a debate on the issue in parliament on Thursday, Mr Kerr said the executive was prepared to adopt a tough stance.

"These are workers providing an essential service to society in difficult and dangerous circumstances," the minister said.

"Attacks on them are completely unacceptable.

"Assaulting an emergency worker puts not just their lives at risk, but also the lives of those they are trying to help and we cannot tolerate that."

Lord Advocate Colin Boyd
Colin Boyd said there were "difficult issues" to address

Scottish Socialist leader Tommy Sheridan said MSPs should have voted last year for an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill to improve protection.

SNP MSP for Central Scotland Alex Neil said new rules should be introduced to prevent large crowds of people heading to casualty departments for "an evening out".

Scotland's most senior law officer Lord Advocate Colin Boyd QC said: "What we are proposing goes beyond Paul Martin's amendment last year.

"Indeed had we accepted that amendment we would not have had the very full consultation and the debate we have here just now in teasing out many of these very difficult issues."

Scottish Tory MSP for Central Scotland Margaret Mitchell said greater protection for emergency service workers was essential.

'Civilised society'

She said: "It's a core principal of any civilised society that emergency workers should have the confidence that in the course of carrying out their duties they should be protected by the full force of the law."

The executive has already held a number of meetings with trade unions and professional bodies over the summer to discuss their plans.

The three-month consultation asked which groups of emergency workers should be covered by the new laws and how an emergency situation should best be defined.

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.

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Call to protect NHS staff
16 Oct 03  |  Scotland

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