Exclusive: 45 arrests made each day during lockdown for attacks on emergency workers

15 September 2020, 08:56 | Updated: 15 September 2020, 09:09

Chris Lowther, chief fire officer at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue, says children as young as 10 have been attacking his crews

Charlotte Lynch

By Charlotte Lynch

Police forces in England and Wales made up to 45 arrests every day during lockdown following attacks on emergency service workers, figures obtained by LBC show.

It comes as ministers plan to bring forward legislation to double the maximum jail sentence for the offence to two years.

Of the 30 forces which responded to our Freedom of Information request, 6,095 arrests were made following attacks on police, paramedics and firefighters between 23rd March and 4th August 2020.

LBC has also been told that children as young as 10 years old have been involved in the assaults.

Chris Lowther, the head of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, told LBC: “Deliberate fires have been set - small fires in wheelie bins and refuse - and when the fire engines have turned up, they’ve been set upon by up to 20 youths, aged between 10 and 17. Totally unacceptable.”

Paul Liversidge, deputy chief exec of the North East Ambulance Service, on new sentences for offenders

The chief said he now refuses to send his crews to secondary fires in an area of Sunderland without police protection.

“Without our colleagues from Northumbria Police we will not be going to secondary fires in the Downhill area. This is because I can’t guarantee the safety of my firefighters otherwise."

When asked if he’d ever known anything as bad as this, Lowther told LBC: “Not as young as 10 years old. It’s just beyond comprehension, but nevertheless it is happening.

“We have to stop this otherwise a firefighter is going to get hurt, or we won’t be able to get to a serious fire or road traffic collision in time to rescue a life.

“This is that serious – this will cost lives.”

In one incident in July, paramedics in Northumberland were attacked by a patient who was unconscious when they arrived.

After crews revived him, he spat in a paramedic’s eye and slapped them, before chasing staff with a 9-inch kitchen knife.

Chris Lowther, Tyne and Wear fire and rescue chief, says attacks will cost lives

Paul Liversidge, the Deputy Chief Executive of the North East Ambulance Service, says in another: “Four, five house bricks cemented together was thrown through one of our ambulance windows.

"The individual didn’t even know what was the other side of those windows, it could have been our staff, a patient could have been lying on a stretcher at that point."

Mr Liversidge fears paramedics could be driven out of the job because the attacks are growing more severe.

He says it’s got worse since the country went in to lockdown.

He told LBC: “It’s interesting to think we have just come out of lockdown.

“People have been isolated in their homes, and clearly, is there then a correlation with the fact they’re now out and about doing what they’ve missed over the last three or four months?”