Protect emergency heroes campaign goes to MPs

By Lou Thomas

A regional newspaper’s campaign to give emergency services workers extra protection from attack by changing the law has reached its final stage in the House of Commons.

The Manchester Evening News’s "Protect our heroes" campaign, which began in November, backed a Private Members’ Bill introduced into Parliament by Labour MP for Swansea West, Alan Williams.

MEN editor Paul Horrocks said: "The public don’t like the thought that the people whose job it is to try to save life and rescue people should be attacked in this way. It creates an awful feeling that something should be done to help them — and now it is being done.

"We’ve had some dreadful problems in Greater Manchester. Since April 2004, there have been more than 350 recorded attacks on firefighters, more than anywhere else in the UK."

The Emergency Services Protection Bill is an attempt to make it a specific offence to assault staff including firefighters, ambulance crew and nurses.

Currently it is only a specific offence to attack police officers.

The bill is currently awaiting a slot to be debated at committee stage in the House of Commons before it goes on to the House of Lords. If it becomes law, it will be an offence to impede the work of any emergency worker attending an emergency, with those committing the offence liable to fines of up to £1,000.

The bill reached its final committee stage on 3 March, the same day that MEN editor Paul Horrocks appeared on Tonight with Trevor McDonald to highlight the campaign.

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