Attacks on North East emergency services increased over lockdown

Physical attacks on the North East’s emergency services have increased during the period of lockdown, according to data shared with ITV Tyne Tees.

Three of the region's police forces saw major rises in attacks with:

  • Northumbria Police recording a 365 per cent increase in assaults on constables

  • North Yorkshire recording a 58 per cent rise

  • Cleveland Police seeing a 49 per cent jump.

The North East Ambulance Service reported a 21 per cent increase in physical assaults against its emergency crews.

The Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service was the only crew to send ITV data, with a 28 per cent fall in attacks during the lockdown period.

However, one firefighter who was attacked said: “It is demoralising, isn’t it? You think you’re doing a good job. You think you get on with the public and then you’ve got to deal with incidents of that type”.


Northumbria Police told ITV News there were 107 attacks on countables during lockdown, compared to 23 during the same period last year. That is a massive 365 per cent rise.

North Yorkshire Constabulary said it had seen a 58 per cent increase in attacks on its officers, with 87 assaults against officers, up from 55 in 2019.

Cleveland Police recorded a 49 per cent increase in attacks, with 311 incidents taking place during lockdown, compared to 209 the year previous.

PCSO Dylan Middlesmiss, Durham Police Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

PSCO Dylan Middlesmiss of Durham Constabulary was attacked during a callout to a bonfire in Seaham in June. He received injuries to his leg and face after being run down by a motorbike and beaten.

The motorbikes kept on going and subsequently like knocking me to the ground and causing, obviously, injury to my leg. At this point the lad who was on the motorbike decided to say “hit them, there’s loads of us”. Next the lad on the bridle was up and he’s got a hold of my stab vest and he’s punching us in the face, which caused injury to my left eye.

PCSO Dylan Middlesmiss, Durham Police


The North East Ambulance Service told ITV News it had seen a 21 per cent increase in physical assaults on its crews during lockdown, recording 76 attacks, compared to 63 in 2019. 

Incidents of intimidating behaviour were up by 25 per cent with 81 incidents compared to 65 during the same period last year and verbal abuse incidents jumped by 13 per cent, with 77 reports compared to 68 the year before.

Rob Barlow, North East Ambulance Service Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Clinical Care Assistant, Rob Barlow, was attacked with his colleague at knifepoint. He had been attending a suspected drugs overdose, but when he and his colleague attempted to administer life-saving medicine, the patient erupted.

He was trying to bite my arm so I was trying to hold his arms over his face so he couldn’t bite me. Then he just jumped between us both and went down to a cupboard on the floor and pulled out a knife. And he went to try and stab us both. I don’t want to die! I wanted to get out of there, preserve my life, live a little bit longer. I still think of it. I’m thinking of reducing my hours.

Rob Barlow, North East Ambulance Service


Only the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service shared data on attacks in our region. The service said incidents were actually down by 28 per cent on the year before but insisted it is still a problem.

It recorded 30 attacks on its firefighters, which is down from 45 in the same period last year. These included objects thrown at officers and fire engines, acts of aggression and verbal abuse.

Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue Service Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Crew manager Peter Wilson told ITV News his vehicle was attacked when he was attending a fire.

We were busy trying to locate the fire when I noticed a group of youths, about 15, approaching the fire engine. At that point I didn’t regard them as a threat, because they were that far away, they were about 100 meters away. I was just sending a message to our control when there was a loud thud and we realised that they’d started throwing rocks at the appliance and one had cracked the windscreen.

Peter Wilson, Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue Service

All members of the emergency services agree that attacks on them, whilst carrying out their duties to help and protect the public, are demoralising, especially when working hard to keep people safe.