Aug 24 2012 by Jennifer Buchanan, Ayrshire Post (main ed)
MORE than 180 emergency workers were attacked in the line of duty in South Ayrshire last year.
That is an average of more than three assaults every single week.
But shockingly only 41 of these attacks were ever reported to the procurator fiscal, and only 17 of the thugs responsible were convicted.
The worrying statistics were revealed to the Post under the Freedom of Information Act.
Doctors, nurses, police, ambulance staff and paramedics were all victims of the 181 reported attacks on emergency workers that took place in the 2011/12 financial year.
Unfortunately Strathclyde Fire Service failed respond to requests for their assault figures.
Most of the attacks are classed by the emergency services as ‘minor’, although one attack on a police officer in 2010/11 was categorised as a serious assault. The attacker was never traced.
The situation sometimes gets to such an extreme for the Scottish Ambulance Service, that it lists some addresses as “no-go” without police assistance.
There are 11 of these addresses in South Ayrshire, but under Data Protection laws the ambulance service cannot even disclose which town these properties are in.
Of the 181 attacks on emergency workers last year, 137 of them happened in Ayr, with 107 attacks on police and 30 on medical staff. The majority of these were on nurses.
There were 15 attacks on police in Troon last year, with seven in Maybole and six in Prestwick.
Five cops were assaulted in Girvan, five in Dundonald, four in Monkton and one each in Mauchline and Dunure.
All while they were just trying to do their job.
But the situation for police has been the same for the last five years.
For in 2007/08 the exact same number of officers were attacked while on duty as this year, 151.
However only four medical workers were attacked during that financial year, compared to the 30 this year.
The conviction rate for these crimes also remains unbelievably low, with only 14 attacks on emergency workers reported to the procurator fiscal’s office and just 11 resulting in convictions.
In total over the last five years, 693 police have been attacked in their line of work, with 71 attacks on medical staff reported to cops.
The problem has become so bad in Ayrshire accident and emergency departments that police patrols have been introduced on the wards on Friday and Saturday nights.
Patricia Leiser is the director of organisation and human resource development with NHS Ayrshire and Arran.
She insists that there is a zero tolerance policy towards physical or verbal abuse in all medical facilities.
She said: “We encourage staff to report all incidents of violence and aggression.
“Our staff can experience a wide range of violent incidents in a variety of situations.
“While some of these situations may involve deliberate abuse or violence from patients or visitors, some may be linked to a patient's health condition - for example dementia, stroke or mental ill health. Our staff are trained to deal with such situations safely and compassionately.
“However, we will not accept deliberate violence in any form, including the use of foul language, towards our staff.”
Inspector Sean Mangan from Ayr police office explained that all assaults on emergency workers are taken very seriously.
Every reported case is passed to the procurator fiscal, who will make the final decision on whether or not to pursue a prosecution.
He said: “Police officers do an amazing job on a daily basis in keeping the public safe and responding to a myriad of incidents and are often confronted with difficult and violent situations in which officers are assaulted by persons they have come into contact with as a result of assisting victims of crime.
“These assaults range from pushing, spitting and verbal abuse through to more violent and serious assaults.
“These assaults are taken extremely seriously and the perpetrators will always be charged with these assaults and the circumstances presented to the procurator fiscal.”
Inspector Mangan went on: “Other emergency workers, particularly fire and rescue and medical staff in the ambulance service or within hospitals are also often subject to assaults from members of the public.
“These assaults often occur whilst emergency personnel are attempting to deal with victims of crime or indeed helping the attackers who had been a victim of crime but through drink, drugs or sheer aggression now turn on the very people that are trying to help them.
“Officers are fully supported following any attack but often these attacks result in distress to the officers personally or their family and can also result in time off work due to treatment and recovery.
“As Communities Inspector for Ayr and the surrounding area I find any form of aggression against police officers and other emergency personal abhorrent and will always use the full weight of the justice system to bring such attackers to justice.”