WEST MIDLANDS Ambulance Service has backed Harper’s Law being brought in by the Government to protect emergency service workers, writes Shnae Harrison.
The legislation has been named after PC Andrew Harper who was killed whilst investigating a robbery back in 2019 and sees mandatory life sentences for those who kill an emergency worker whilst on duty. PC Harper’s wife has campaigned for the law change
Life sentences are already imposed for murder but a whole life sentence is already the starting point for the killing of a police officer.
That is now being extended to cover police officers, firefighters, paramedics and prison staff.
The move extends mandatory life sentences to anyone who commits the manslaughter of an emergency worker on duty – including police, prison officers, firefighters and paramedics – while carrying out another crime, unless there are truly exceptional circumstances.
Courts must already impose life sentences for murder, with a whole-life order being the starting point if the victim is a police officer. The time spent in prison under a mandatory life sentence is decided by a judge.
After a generous amount of funding from NHS England, since October this year emergency services staff have been given body cameras which can be turned on at any point when members of staff feel threatened.
Trust Chief Executive, Anthony Marsh, said: “Our ambulance crews go above and beyond every single day, often in very difficult circumstances, but the appalling reality is that on average, at least one member of our staff is physical assaulted every single day and last year, two were stabbed.
“All too often our staff are left feeling let down by the justice system when people convicted of assaulting them receive disappointingly light sentences, so anything that provides our staff with more protection can only be a good thing.
“It is imperative the wider judiciary be more consistent in applying tougher sentences to perpetrators who are convicted of any form of violence, aggression or abuse towards our staff, not just those that result in a death.
“Violence and aggression towards anyone is unacceptable, but emergency services workers need particular additional protection due to the nature of their work on the frontline.”
The Trust have also set up a three-month trial for staff members to have stab proof vests – 22 have volunteered to take part in the scheme at the Willenhall Hub.
Also attending the trial, Willenhall-based paramedic Deena Evans, who was stabbed last year.
She added: “It’s a shame it’s come to this, but I couldn’t be more relieved! I feel less anxious about working frontline shifts wearing it.”
A questionnaire is to be completed by volunteers at the end of the trial to which will then be presented and assessed by the Trust Board.