Rise in attacks on fire crews prompts promise of tough action

Firefighters have faced verbal and physical attacks while trying to get on with their job of tackling fires and saving lives.
Firefighters have faced verbal and physical attacks while trying to get on with their job of tackling fires and saving lives.

With Bonfire Night approaching, fire crews across Scotland are currently experiencing their busiest time of the year.

So anything that makes their work more difficult can put property and lives at greater risk.

In the last year, attacks on firefighters in Scotland have risen by more than a third (36 per cent) – prompting the Scottish Government to promise tough action against anyone involved in such actions against fire crews or any blue-light emergency workers.

The JPI Media investigations team can reveal that there were 72 attacks on firefighters in 2018/19, up from 53 in 2017/18.

The attacks in the past year included 48 in which missiles were thrown at fire crews or fire engines, 15 in which staff were subjected to verbal abuse and eight in which firefighters were physically attacked.

A Scottish Government spokesman 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.”

Tougher laws relating to attacks on emergency service workers, including police officers, firefighters and ambulance crews, were introduced in 2005.

The spokesman added: “The Emergency Workers Act enables penalties of up to 12 months’ imprisonment, a £10,000 fine, or both, to be imposed following conviction for offences against Scottish Fire and Rescue Service staff, and we extended this legislation in 2008 to include health professionals working in the community.

“For more serious attacks, other offences such as assault can be used, which means offenders can face penalties up to life imprisonment.”