With the number of physical assault reports on North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) staff having increased by 23% compared to last year, plans have now been introduced for staff to start wearing body cameras.
The scheme launches this week with approximately 40 of the frontline staff members trialling their use.
The tamper-proof cameras, provided cost-free by body camera manufacturers Edesix, are being used with the hopes of accurately capturing and ultimately deterring assault crimes on NEAS workers. This evidence is particularly important as research and past reports have shown that the majority of attacks on NEAS workers occur away from CCTV covered areas. By wearing body cameras, staff will be able to provide reliable evidence of any assault or aggression from patients or onlookers in court cases, enabling the law to issue harsher sentences for those found guilty of violent behaviour.[pullquote]Last year there were over 350 prosecutions nationally for attacks on ambulance staff alone[/pullquote]
Alan Gallagher, Head of Risk at NEAS, hopes that the introduction of this technology will “bring more prosecutions against people who put [NEAS’s] staff at risk and reduce the assaults and abuse they are currently facing in the line of their work. There really is nothing more disheartening than being hurt by someone that you’ve gone to help, particularly when they already work in such challenging circumstances”.
The impact of the new plans is being strengthened by the introduction of the “Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill”, a new law that ensures that those who are found guilty of assault or attacks on emergency workers will receive longer jail sentences, which was introduced in response to the public’s gratitude towards the level of courage and commitment of emergency service workers. The combination of body cameras and the new bill will hopefully pave the way for a much safer working environment for our emergency service employees, with the hope that any recorded footage will provide sufficient evidence in court to utilise the benefits of this new bill.
Last year there were over 350 prosecutions nationally for attacks on ambulance staff alone. However, the number when accounting for unreported or unprosecuted events is estimated to be much higher. This highlights a significant issue regarding the wellbeing of employees within the emergency sector who work tirelessly to make our lives safer.
The body camera scheme will run a trial period of three months with free software and supported being provided by Edesix before an ultimate decision will be made regarding the future protection our emergency services workers.