Sussex emergency service leaders condemn 'unacceptable' assaults on staff

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Tom Savvides

The leaders of police, fire and ambulance services across Sussex have come together to condemn a steep rise in assaults against emergency workers.It comes as a national report is published with a wide-ranging set of recommendations around police officer and staff safety.

Sussex Police Chief Constable Jo Shiner says that there has been an increase in assaults on police officers, while paramedics have dealt with over a dozen attacks this summer in Brighton alone.

She says "It can't be right that the very people dedicating their lives to saving others are increasingly coming under attack or when people think sharing videos of this is the right course of action. For communities to be protected, we must stand together to protect our frontline. Assaults on police, fire and ambulance workers, and indeed other public sector workers doing their job, will simply not be tolerated."


attacks on police officers in Sussex in 2019/20

In April this year, 29-year-old Lawrence Hughes from Brighton was jailed for eight months for attacking a police officer in Hove, and a further four months for driving while banned. 

Hughes grabbed Pc Alex Ferguson's radio during the attack and threw it away to stop Pc Ferguson calling for help.

Watch: Bodycam footage of attack by Hughes on Pc Ferguson

On Wednesday 2 September, the National Police Chiefs' Council released the Officer and Staff Safety Review (OSSR), which it had commissioned in September 2019 and included the biggest ever survey of police officers, staff and volunteers to canvass views on safety at work.

Since 2014/15, recorded assaults have risen by 185 per cent. Many of these have resulted in injuries and included kicks, punches, scratches and bruising, through to more serious incidents such as dislocations, fractures and concussion. Additionally, officers are regularly subjected to being spat at, which in many cases leads to them having to undergo a worrying wait following HIV and hepatitis tests. More recently, there has been a significant rise in spitting incidents associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

South East Coast Ambulance Service's Manager for Brighton, Tim Fellows, says: “We encourage staff to report and take action against anyone who physically attacks or verbally abuses them and they must never be made to feel that violence or the threat of violence is just a part of their job.”


attacks on ambulance staff in Brighton and Hove since 1 June

I would like to implore people to remember that we are blessed in the UK to have these services to protect our communities.

Dawn Whittaker, Chief Fire Officer for East Sussex

Attacks on firefighters in East Sussex trebled in 2018/19 from seven the previous year to 21, which included nine in Brighton and Hove.

In December last year, firefighters dealing with a fire in Eastbourne came under attack by a group of teenagers. A firefighter required hospital treatment after being struck by a pebble.

Chief Fire Officer of West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service Sabrina Cohen-Hatton says it is a growing issue that emergency services are facing up and down the country.

WS Chief Fire Officer Sabrina Cohen-Hatton says: “It is hard to believe that anyone would see emergency service staff as a target."

She says: "An attack on a firefighter is not just an attack on a firefighter. It's also an attack on the person they're trying to rescue - someone who is already hurt, afraid and in danger. It is an act of cowardice."