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Press Release - Emergency services unite to tackle #Unacceptable assaults on staff
Posted on 31/10/2018

Emergency services from across the south west are working together to highlight the unacceptable trend in the number of assaults on their staff whilst on duty, by launching a new campaign #Unacceptable. 

As well as fellow blue light services, the campaign is being supported by Exeter City Football Club and the Exeter Chiefs who are encouraging the public to get behind the initiative by showing their support on social media. 

Police, ambulance, fire and healthcare staff are regularly subjected to attacks including serious injury, verbal abuse, spitting and biting, and even sexual assault from those they are trying to help.

Based on previous twelve-month figures, by the end of this year, over 1,400 police officers from Devon & Cornwall Police, Dorset Police and Avon & Somerset Police would have been assaulted while carrying out duties to keep the peace within their local communities (491 in Devon & Cornwall Police; 214 in Dorset Police; and 701 in Avon & Somerset Police).

South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT) reported 1,049 assaults on their staff between January and December 2017, which is an increase of 97 reports on the previous 12 months. Bournemouth NHS saw 236 assaults during this time. Sadly, however, it is thought that these figures do not represent the entirety of assaults, as many are never reported by the victims.

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Davies on behalf of Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police said: “Our officers and staff, along with other emergency services colleagues, demonstrate commitment, courage and dedication on a daily basis. They signed up to helping and protecting the public, not coming into work each day with the risk of being assaulted. The impact this can have on them, their colleagues and their families can have lasting effects long after physical scars have healed.

“Together, the emergency services want to ensure our personnel can deliver the best possible service to our communities; but in order to do this we need injury-free and healthy work forces. We will not tolerate assaults on our emergency services and will seek to bring criminal proceedings against offenders.  I welcome the new law to double the maximum sentence from six months to 12 months for assaulting an emergency services worker.”

Emergency services personnel from across the region have been sharing their experiences in a video:

Campaign goal – #Goal999

The goal of the campaign is to keep emergency services personnel safe by raising public awareness and reducing the number of assaults while on duty.

In support of this, and with the backing of the Exeter Chiefs and Exeter City Football Club, the #Goal999 social media challenge encourages supporters and members of the public to post photographs or videos of their most creative goal, using the hashtags #Goal999 and #Unacceptable. When they post their entry, they can nominate friends and family to share their goals too.

Goals don’t have to be sport-based, they can include anything positive; whether that be climbing a mountain, painting a landscape or growing vegetables. The winner of the ‘most creative’ goal could scoop an early Christmas present in the form of a signed shirt by the Exeter Chiefs or Exeter City Football Club.

Please get involved and show your support by posting your photos or videos to Twitter with the hashtag #Unacceptable or on the Facebook page UnacceptableNotPartOfTheJob. Full details are given on or Also featured are videos of case studies from the police and other agencies.

Julian Tagg, Chairman of Exeter City Football Club, said: “Exeter City Football Club and CITY Community Trust are proud to stand alongside all emergency services, across the south west, in their aim to reduce the number of assaults against our emergency services. We are incredibly reliant on the emergency services and the role they play in making match days at St James Park a safe and secure place. Only recently we have seen incredible and efficient work carried out on a match day after a supporter was sadly taken ill during the game.

“It is sad to see that abuse to our emergency services has risen in recent years, which is why we at Exeter City and CITY Community Trust are backing the #Unacceptable campaign.

“It is important that, alongside the Exeter Chiefs, we stand united in support of emergency services and remind everyone that they are here to aid us in a variety of ways.  We hope that this campaign will raise awareness of the excellent work that the police, fire and rescue, ambulance and the health service do, and ensure that they are treated with respect when going about their duties.”

Tony Rowe OBE, Chairman and Chief Executive of Exeter Chiefs Rugby, said: “Every day our emergency services put themselves at the forefront of so much for our local communities. However, what is not acceptable is for those service personnel to then be submitted to assault or abuse whilst carrying out their duties.

“As a club we are fully support of the #Unacceptable campaign, which we believe will not only bring these issues into the minds of the public, but will help to make a real difference to those who continue to serve us so well.”

Ken Wenman, of Chief Executive SWASFT, said: “Like all our emergency services colleagues, our crews and control staff work in extremely difficult circumstances and are often under threat of attack or abuse. This is totally unacceptable and we will take whatever action is necessary to ensure that our staff are protected and those responsible for such attacks are prosecuted.

“We are very proud to be part of this important campaign and hope that together we can make a significant impact in reducing the number of assaults on our staff so that they can continue to provide an excellent service to the public without fear of attack or abuse.”


Further information and quotes from supporters/endorsers

BJ Waltho, Associate Director of Operations at the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are proud to support the #unacceptable campaign. The uniqueness of this campaign is that it combines the NHS with all blue light partners in the South West to achieve its aims and objectives. #unacceptable will pay a vital role in raising awareness of the impact violence and aggression has on those who respond to and deal with incidents and their right to do so without fear of abuse and injury.”

Superintendent Rhys Hughes from Avon & Somerset Police, said: “Officers put their lives on the line to keep the public safe every day and don’t join the service to be physically or emotionally abused. Emergency services colleagues regularly go to work knowing that they may be assaulted, something you wouldn’t expect in most other professions as part of your job.  If you assault our officers, we will bring criminal proceedings against you, which could result in you being imprisoned.

“This year we’ve worked hard to update our internal support process where our officers have been assaulted in the line of duty. We’ve seen an increase in reporting of assaults in the months since its re-launch in the spring and anticipate our figures for the year ending March 2019 to have increased. Whilst our understanding of the scale of assaults has improved, it’s unacceptable for any of our officers to be assaulted. We are united with our blue light colleagues on this issue.”

Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Simon Shilton from Avon Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Our staff come to work every day to support our communities and they should not be experiencing any form of assault while they are doing their best to help others. Any assaults on our staff or any of our emergency colleagues is completely unacceptable, but unfortunately is becoming something they are facing more regularly. I hope that by raising awareness, we can work together to reduce it happening in the future.”

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Pete Bond from Devon & Somerset Fire Rescue Service, said: “Assaults on emergency services staff not only put them at risk but could also have an impact on members of the public in need of our help. It is not acceptable and we do not tolerate this kind of behaviour and work closely with the police to ensure anyone committing a crime of this nature is prosecuted.”

Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon & Cornwall, said: “I am pleased to support this campaign. Every day, rain or shine, our officers are out in our communities when we most need them.  When most of us run away from a situation, they will run towards it. In return, we must do what we can to protect them. This includes sending a very clear message that attacks on emergency workers are totally unacceptable and will be met with an appropriate sanction in court.”

Martyn Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, said: “I give my whole-hearted support to the #Unacceptable campaign. The ‘need’ to have legislation in place to protect those who work so hard to protect us is sad, but it’s a shocking reality that assaults on blue light staff are increasing, so I am delighted that there is now legislation in place that will serve to protect them. There is never an excuse for abusing Police Officers or any other member of the emergency services. They do a difficult job, often in very challenging circumstances. Verbal and physical abuse against any member of staff is completely and totally unacceptable.”

Sue Mountstevens, Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset, said: “All our emergency service workers, the police, paramedics, nurses and firefighters deserve to be treated with respect and not face the threat of violence on a daily basis. Assaults on emergency workers on any level is unacceptable and we all need to show support and respect to those individuals who work so hard to protect us and keep us safe from harm.”

Joint statement from Andy Berry, Chair of Devon and Cornwall Police Federation, and Anna Harvey, Chair of Dorset Police Federation: “The Police Federation are really pleased to support this campaign which highlights that our members, who are also mum's, dad's, sons and daughters, should not have to accept being assaulted when they go to work to serve the public.”

Sir Oliver Letwin MP – West Dorset, said: “The emergency services put themselves at considerable risk and do an amazing job on behalf of all the rest of us. The least we owe them is to respect their right to go about their business without fearing assault.  I strongly back this campaign.”

Geoffrey Cox QC MP – Torridge and West Devon, said: “Upon our emergency workers depend the lives of tens of thousands of our fellow citizens every year, it is imperative that they have the full protection of the law while they carry out their duties. I commend the #Unacceptable initiative to raise awareness of this problem and thank our local servicemen and women for the hard work they do in our local communities.”

Rt Hon Anne Marie Morris MP – Newton Abbot, said: “It is completely unacceptable for emergency service workers to be threatened, abused, or attacked while they are trying to help the public. This new law will serve as a deterrent to protect those who do extraordinary work on our behalf. Violence against these workers must not be tolerated.”

Rt Hon Peter Heaton-Jones MP – North Devon, said: “All assaults on our emergency service workers should be roundly condemned.  They are not acceptable under any circumstances.  I hope this campaign will help raise awareness that we take a zero tolerance approach to all such attacks.  Our emergency workers deserve our wholehearted support and thanks, as well as the right to do their vital work free from the threat of assault.  This campaign is an important way of highlighting this issue, and I wholeheartedly welcome it.”

Rt Hon Holly Lynch MP – Halifax, said: “Having seen for myself the dangers faced by our brave emergency workers, I know all too well why we need a greater awareness of assaults and more protections for these frontline staff.

“Earlier this year I was enormously proud to have helped secure the new ‘Protect the Protectors’ law which has succeeded in strengthening legal protections from assault.

“No one should be assaulted when doing their job and I hope that this latest campaign will help increase awareness and encourage those who are assaulted to report it, safe in the knowledge that this will be treated as an extremely serious offence.”


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