No prosecutions following assaults on paramedics

None of the nearly 50 assaults that took place on paramedics last year resulted in a prosecution

No prosecutions following assaults on paramedics

File photo | Image: RollingNews.ie

None of the nearly 50 assaults that took place on paramedics last year resulted in a prosecution according to new figures.

The statistics - released to The Irish Times - show that the National Ambulance Service recorded 47 incidents of “violence, harassment and aggression” towards paramedics last year.

On Newstalk Breakfast, Tony Gregg, general secretary of the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (NASRA) said the figures are “extraordinary” adding that the HSE are “just not taking the issue of assaults seriously.”

“Any reasonable individual would imagine that at least one of those assaults was serious enough to warrant an individual being pursued through the courts to achieve a conviction,” he said.

He said other jurisdictions operate a “no-tolerance” policy to assaults on emergency service personnel in order to protect front-line workers.

The Criminal Justice Act was amended in 2006 to include ambulance services as peace officers of the State – meaning anyone who assaults or obstructs a paramedic in the course of their duty could face a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to €5,000.

Under reporting

Mr Gregg said the lack of prosecutions has led ambulance service staff to lose confidence in the system – warning that “most of the assaults that occur are not being reported” by front-line staff.

He warned that media focus on emergency service assaults has previously had a negative effect on recruitment.

“We are understaffed and I think there has been a deliberate attempt to keep the assaults on paramedics out of the media because it does hamper recruitment,” he said.

“There is an inaction and the inaction itself is part of the cause of assaults on the ambulance service.

“If we had a situation where there was an awareness campaign to allow people understand that there is a zero tolerance in place and that people will be prosecuted through the courts – such as has been done in all other ambulance services – that would send out a clear, strong message to people that this will not be tolerated.”

Prosecution policy

The National Ambulance Service told Newstalk that decisions in relation to assaults are taken in consultation with staff, management and the gardaí – with no policy of non-prosecution.

“The National Ambulance Service - similar to our colleagues in the Garda Síochána and the Fire Service - are often on the receiving end of verbal abuse, threatening behaviour and physical assault from patients or the general public,” said an NAS spokesperson. 

“Each incident of assault - whether actual or threatened - is recorded on the HSE National Incident Management System.

“Decisions are taken in consultation with the NAS Staff concerned, NAS management and the gardaí as to the appropriate course(s) of action to be followed - including criminal prosecution of those responsible.”

You can listen back to Tony Gregg’s conversation with Shane Coleman on Newstalk Breakfast here: