Figures show an increase in attacks on firefighters in Oxfordshire
Attacks on firefighters in Oxfordshire have increased.
Over the past 12 months, there have been eight incidents of abuse against Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service - up from one incident the year before that.
One of the eight incidents happened in the Cherwell area, with three happening in Oxford, two in West Oxforshire and one in both South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse.
Overall, there were more than 900 attacks on firefighters responding to emergencies across the UK, roughly the same number as the year before.
This is despite the introduction of a law in England and Wales last November which doubled the maximum prison terms for assaulting blue light workers from six months to a year.
Firefighters say attacks often intensify around Bonfire Night.
Figures obtained from 49 of the UK’s 50 fire services show crews were physically abused more than 70 times and had fireworks or missiles thrown at them more than 200 times in 2018/19.
At least nine firefighters were injured.
The figures going back five years for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service are as follows:
2014/15 - 2
2015/16 - 7
2016/17 - 6
2017/18 - 1
2018/19 - 8
Overall over the past five years - 24
Number of call outs in 2018/19 - 6,143
Rate of attacks per 1,000 incidents - 1.3
Chris Bryant MP (Labour, Rhondda), who spearheaded the so-called Protect the Protectors law by tabling a Private Members Bill, said he feared the justice system was “still not taking this seriously enough and the courts have still not taken on board the fact that this law is in place”.
He said: “We need a complete zero-tolerance attitude towards any kind of violence towards our emergency workers. Any assault on them is an assault on all of us.”
A Government spokesperson said: “Being attacked should never be part of the job for our firefighters, which is why we have been clear about the need for better protection and stronger sentences.”
In Scotland, where a similar law had already been introduced in 2005, attacks on firefighters have risen by a third (36%) in just a year.
There were 72 attacks on firefighters during emergency call-outs in 2018/19, including eight in which staff were physically abused and one which resulted in injury.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “All attacks against our emergency services, including our fire and rescue service officers, are despicable and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms. There will be a zero tolerance approach to attacks on our firefighters.”
In Northern Ireland, attacks on firefighters during call-outs hit a five-year low of 93 in 2018/19, figures obtained by the JPIMedia Data unit through the Freedom of Information Act show.
But the country still saw more attacks than in either Scotland or Wales, the figures show.
Assaulting a firefighter in Northern Ireland can result in two years’ jail, and the Department of Justice said it would soon be reviewing sentencing for attacks on frontline public services.