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Sexual Assaults on Ambulance Staff Rocket 211%

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

GMB BACKS TOUGHER LAWS AS REPORTED SEXUAL ASSAULTS ON AMBULANCE WORKERS ROCKET 211%

Private Member’s Bill to protect emergency workers returns to Parliament on Friday and must cover sexual assaults, says union.

GMB, the union for NHS workers, is demanding a change in the law as its investigation reveals that reported sexual assaults on ambulance staff have increased by 211 per cent over five years.

According to the results of a Freedom of Information Act survey undertaken by GMB, there have been at least 688 sexual assaults on ambulance staff since 2012/13.

In 2012/13 there were 53 recorded sexual assaults. By 2016/17, the most recently available full year figures, the total had increased to 165. [See notes 1 for breakdown by year and ambulance trusts]

On Friday [April 27], MPs will vote on the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Private Member’s Bill sponsored by Chris Bryant MP.

If passed, most types of assaults on emergency service workers will automatically be treated as an aggravating factor for sentencing purpose.

GMB has long campaigned for the Bill to be passed – but as it stands, sexual assaults will not be included in the proposed legislation. The union is demanding a change to the Bill to widen its scope.

Shocking evidence given to GMB by ambulance staff members who have been sexually assaulted in the line of duty include the following: [2]

“I’ve been punched, kicked, slapped, bitten, spat on, threatened with a knife and a gun. Verbal abuse and threats of sexual violence. Threats to kill me and my family. Threats to rape my children.

"Sexually assaulted, verbally threatened with assault, fallen on by an aggressive patient whilst in the ambulance.”

“A known regular caller forced me against a wall with the intention of sexually assaulting me.”

“I have been sexually assaulted twice and been punched in the side of my face.”

“I was the victim of a sustained incident which began with verbal and sexual abuse and harassment, my assailant indecently exposed himself, made lewd derogatory sexual remarks and gestures, grabbed hold of me and twisted my arm, also kicked out at me and again tried to grab hold of me.”

“I am frightened every time I work alone on a vehicle and respond to a lone male patient. I dread the days I am rota'd to work alone.

“Struggled to go out and be around friends and family, children upset unable to sleep.”

GMB and Chris Bryant MP have written to the Ministry of Justice Minister, Rory Stewart, to call on him to back an amendment to the Bill on Friday. [3] The union is also campaigning for risk flagging systems to be upgraded so ambulance workers are always aware if they are called out to people with a known history of sexual violence.

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary, said:

“The fact this is happening to our ambulance workers as they try to save lives is particularly sickening.

“These figures show there is a national problem with disgusting attacks on emergency workers and it’s getting worse.

“The government could confront abusive and unacceptable behaviour with the stroke of a pen.

"Make no mistake: these are among the most horrific and harrowing cases emergency workers can and do face in the line of duty.

“GMB is calling for sexual assaults to be included in this new legislation to help give our ambulance staff the reassurance they need to get on with the job. 

"These heroes keep us safe every day and the least they can expect is being kept safe at work."

ENDS

Contact: GMB Press Office on 07958 156846 or at press.office@gmb.org.uk

[1]

Recorded sexual assaults and/or incidents – the results of GMB’s Freedom of Information Act survey of ambulance employers

 

 

2012/13

 

 

2013/14

 

 

2014/15

 

 

2015/16

 

 

2016/17

 

 

2017/18*

 

 

Total

 

 

East of England Ambulance Service

 

 

14

 

 

19

 

 

44

 

 

65

 

 

62

 

 

34

 

 

238

 

 

London Ambulance Service

 

 

20

 

 

31

 

 

28

 

 

23

 

 

36

 

 

28

 

 

166

 

 

North West Ambulance Service

 

 

15

 

 

14

 

 

19

 

 

24

 

 

26

 

 

35

 

 

133

 

 

Northern Ireland Ambulance Service

 

 

1

 

 

1

 

 

0

 

 

3

 

 

5

 

 

16

 

 

26

 

 

South Central Ambulance Service

 

 

~

 

 

1

 

 

2

 

 

1

 

 

5

 

 

5

 

 

14

 

 

South East Coast Ambulance Service

 

 

Data not held

 

 

   

10

 

 

9

 

 

20

 

 

39

 

 

South Western Ambulance Service

 

 

0

 

 

1

 

 

2

 

 

1

 

 

1

 

 

0

 

 

5

 

 

West Midlands Ambulance Service

 

 

3

 

 

1

 

 

7

 

 

12

 

 

13

 

 

18

 

 

54

 

 

Yorkshire Ambulance Service

 

 

0

 

 

Less than 5

 

 

Less than 5

 

 

Less than 5

 

 

8

 

 

5

 

 

13

 

 

Total

 

 

53

 

 

68

 

 

102

 

 

139

 

 

165

 

 

161

 

 

688

 

 

*Full year figures are not yet available for 2017/18. Most Trust’s figures were provided to the end of February 2018.

Caution should be exercised when comparing figures between organisations. GMB requested information on the number of recorded sexual assaults: some trusts provided figures for physical sexual assaults, but the East of England Ambulance Service responded that it records all incidents under a more general ‘sexual abuse and assault’ category, which include inappropriate sexual verbal comments. It is clear, however, that the number of reported incidents is increasing within almost all the trusts surveyed.

Some trusts do not specifically monitor criminal and civil sanctions applied in response to sexual offences. For example, London Ambulance Service was unable to provide details of sanctions issued in response to sexual attacks, despite recording 166 assaults by patients against members of its staff between 2012/13 and 2017/18. These problems of data collection prevent a full assessment of trusts’ effectiveness at supporting staff and deterring offenders. 

[2] Member responses to a GMB survey of ambulance staff in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

[3] The text of the letter is below:

Rory Stewart MP
Minister of State
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France 
London
SW1H 9AJ

Dear Minister

Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill – Sexual Assaults

We broadly welcome the Government’s support for the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill.

The current drafting of the Bill reflects current points of cross-party agreement. We are, however, concerned about the serious deficiency in the Bill in relation to sexual assaults.

As you know, the Bill will make it an aggravating factor to assault an emergency worker for sentencing purposes when a range of offences are committed. Sexual assaults are not currently included in that list of offences.

There is evidence that ambulance staff are deliberately targeted for sexual assault. Deficiencies in risk flagging systems mean that offenders can deliberately target vulnerable staff (such as those working alone). As one GMB member who was assaulted said, ‘it was a clever game played by someone who had done all this before.’

There is also evidence that the number of sexual assaults may be rising. A GMB Freedom of Information Act survey of ambulance employers in the UK found that the number of reported sexual assaults against ambulance staff rose by 211 per cent between 2012/13 and 2016/17 in the nine ambulance services for which figures are available.

It is important to note that the number of reported assaults does not reflect the extent of the problem. GMB members report that some incidents are not formally reported because staff have no faith in their employers or the judicial system to bring offenders to justice. In some ambulance trusts, this problem is exacerbated by unsupportive management processes and cultures. 

We believe that the Bill must strengthen the legal deterrents against all forms of assault against emergency workers, including sexual assault.

As you know, there is currently a heightened public awareness of the problem of sexual harassment and abuse. This raised awareness must be reflected in a renewed Government commitment to take all practicable steps to confront sexual abuse.

We therefore further believe that it would be a gross inconsistency to strengthen the law in relation to other categories of physical assaults against emergency services workers without taking the same steps in relation to sexual assaults.

Ambulance staff face extraordinary pressures on a daily basis and they discharge their duties with great professionalism, but no-one should be threatened with sexual violence at work or elsewhere. It is vital that the legal deterrent against such attacks is strengthened.

We urge you to support the amendment that will be moved at Report Stage that would require courts to treat sexual assaults (as defined by the Sexual Offences Act 2003) against as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes

We would be happy to meet with you to discuss this matter further ahead of Report Stage and Third Reading of the Bill next Friday.

Yours sincerely,

Rehana Azam                                                                                    
GMB National Secretary for Public Services

Chris Bryant
Member of Parliament for Rhondda

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