Sinn Fein TD Dessie Ellis has today supported calls for legislation to protect emergency workers from assault. Speaking on the Assaults on Emergency Workers Bill Deputy Ellis said he supports the motivation of the Bill but not the measures included in it.
Deputy Ellis said;
“While my party cannot fully endorse the Bill as it stands I do think that it deserves to be passed here and to go to committee stage where it could be amended in a manner that would satisfy all sides and address the need to come down hard on those who attack Emergency Service workers.
“Unfortunately this is an issue that requires addressing in the light of attacks on members of the Emergency Services. It is also particularly topical in the run-up to Halloween when such attacks tend to increase.
“Members of the Fire Service are particularly vulnerable to attack when arriving to deal with bonfires that are out of control or are in locations where they are likely to lead to serious injury or to damage property. I know from my own area that bonfires are sometimes built too close to schools and other premises including people’s homes.
“Unfortunately, however, not all of those involved in such attacks on the emergency services are children and that is why legislation such as this is required.
“Some adults involved in anti-social and criminal behaviour see members of the emergency services as fair game and will sometimes entice them to bonfires and other incidents with the intention of attacking them. That has led to several serious incidents which might well have led to extremely serious injuries and even deaths.
“Those engaged in such attacks need to be punished but we believe that mandatory sentences are a crude measure. We, and indeed many others including legal experts, believe that applying such mandatory sentences does not allow for a court to take into account all of the nuances of a particular offence.
“There is also research to show that mandatory sentencing in other jurisdictions for various offences has not been effective.”