Cllr Joanna Byrne Calls For Legislation To Protect Emergency Services Frontline Workers

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne has welcomed the passing of her Council motion calling for any future sentencing guidelines to consider assaults on frontline worker’s as ‘aggravating factors’, potentially leading to more severe punishments issued by the courts. Her motion was successfully passed with cross-party support.

The motion read as follows:

“Louth County Council recognises the essential role carried out by emergency service workers including Ambulance, Fire Service, Gardaí and Customs, and the risks that these frontline workers take in the service of the public.
We also recognise that assaults carried out upon such emergency services in the course of their duties, can hamper, delay, and prevent these services coming to the assistance of the public, often during situations and events of serious duress and danger.
– Therefore, we consider the nature of such assaults as serious, and it should be considered an aggravating factor, where any assault is made against a frontline worker during the commission of their duties, and that any review or future sentencing guidelines should provide that it would be considered an aggravating factor.”

Cllr Byrne gave a passionate speech to the chamber while delivering her motion. “There is unprecedented levels of violence occurring in the line of duty for these workers and the worrying trend of callout crews being targeted shows no sign of abating, including here in Louth. Crews have come to accept these attacks as an ‘occupational hazard’ which is just wrong; violence against any emergency service worker should never be accepted at any level, let alone expected.”

Cllr Byrne also recognised the need for “specific legislation to protect emergency personnel and send a firm message to the perpetrators that the law will no longer be as lenient.”

Cllr Byrne was able to state cases of a paramedic being assaulted while treating a cardiac patient on a bus, during which he lost his two front teeth whilst his colleague had blood spat in his face. In another case she told of a firefighter losing part of his ear through being bitten, amongst others, and all the while highlighting the impact that these attacks could potentially have on the lives of the people these workers were trying to save.

Cllr Byrne also explained that ‘The Irish Fire and Emergency Service’s Association’’, the Union for 999 personnel, claims that “assaults like these are much more common than statistics even suggest, considering they are only recorded when an injury occurs, incidents with physical contact but yet no injuries are not recorded.”

Cllr Byrne said “We cannot sit idly by just expressing sentiments of thanks to these valuable frontline services, it’s time to support them properly and do our utmost to ensure their safety at all times, only then can they focus on their duties and continue to protect and save the lives of us all in this country.”

Notification of this motion being passed will now be sent to the Minister for Justice, Charles Flanagan, for his Department to consider when next reviewing sentencing guidelines.