Yorkshire's firefighters under attack as Bonfire Night looms
Tougher sentences for assaulting blue-light workers are not a deterrent and have yet to cut the hundreds of attacks on firefighters each year with Yorkshire one of the worst areas for assaults on emergency service workers in the country, it can today be revealed.
There were more than 900 attacks on firefighters responding to emergencies across the UK during 2018/2019, with the Yorkshire and the Humber the second worst area for assaults.
There were 134 attacks on firefighters across Yorkshire and the Humber, equating to 4.7 attacks per 1,000 call-outs - an investigation by the JPIMedia Data Unit has shown.
Only fire services in the West Midlands had higher with a total of 171 assaults.
Figures obtained from 49 of the UK’s 50 fire services show crews were physically abused more than 70 times and had fireworks or missiles thrown at them more than 200 times in 2018/19.
At least nine firefighters were injured.
In Harrogate, attacks on firefighters have reached a five-year-high with 13 crew members subjected to physical attacks, verbal abuse or other aggressive behaviour during 999 calls.
Firefighters in Halifax, Leeds, Doncaster and Sheffield also reported having missiles thrown at them while responding to life-threatening service calls during the last 12 months.
Yorkshire’s largest fire service - West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service - recorded 75 attacks on firefighters during 2018/19, while South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service had 34, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service had 13 and Humberside Fire and Rescue Service 12.
Firefighters say attacks often intensify around Bonfire Night.
This is despite the introduction of a law in England and Wales last November which doubled the maximum prison terms for assaulting blue light workers from six months to a year.
Labour MP Chris Bryant MP, who spearheaded the so-called Protect the Protectors law by tabling a Private Members Bill, said he feared the justice system was “still not taking this seriously enough and the courts have still not taken on board the fact that this law is in place”.
He said: “We need a complete zero-tolerance attitude towards any kind of violence towards our emergency workers. Any assault on them is an assault on all of us.”
A Government spokesperson said: “Being attacked should never be part of the job for our firefighters, which is why we have been clear about the need for better protection and stronger sentences.
“We have supported the Assaults on Emergency Workers Act, which means individuals who attack firefighters could face double the jail time.”
In Scotland, where a similar law had already been introduced in 2005, attacks on firefighters have risen by a third (36 per cent) in just a year.
There were 72 attacks on firefighters during emergency call-outs in 2018/19, including eight in which staff were physically abused and one which resulted in injury.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “All attacks against our emergency services, including our fire and rescue service officers, are despicable and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.
“There will be a zero tolerance approach to attacks on our firefighters.”