Lagan Valley MLAs Edwin Poots and Jonathan Craig have welcomed an amendment to the Justice Bill making it an offence of attacking Ambulance Personnel carry the same punishment as attacking Police and Fire Personnel.
Speaking in support of the legislation, Mr Poots said that all too often staff are left in extremely dangerous situations and need protected.
“Staff are usually out alone or in twos,” he said. They are put into extremely volatile situations of domestic violence or fights where there is still a lot of anger.
“On many occasions individuals will be inebriated with alcohol or drugs and sometimes a cocktail of both.”
Jonathan Craig said, “This is something which unfortunately as a husband I have witnessed first hand.
“I remember the night my wife phoned to explain that as a paramedic she had been attacked by patient in the back of an ambulance, therefore I personally welcome this additional safeguard for our ambulance staff.
“They have to deal with mentally ill, drug addicts who are high on drugs, people who are drunk and people who are very violent it is only but right that they now have the same legal protection as police officers.”
Mr Poots continued, “We continue to get reports of attacks on our ambulance staff. Recently a paramedic was badly injured after being thrown down stairs, regularly staff are punched kicked and head butted, such behaviour is totally unacceptable against staff who are out there in all circumstances with the important job of saving people’s lives.
“It is critical the message goes out loud and clear that attacks on staff in the front line is unacceptable and sentencing will be tougher.
“It is our intention to look at how we can protect front line staff as well. There is a particular problem in our Emergency Departments, but not just there so it will require considerable background work to get it right, nonetheless the legislation it is an important step in the right direction.”