New victim recovery fund snubs paramedics and firefighters
The Law Society of Scotland has today questioned why Scottish Government proposals to create a fund for police officers who have been assaulted whilst at work, do not cover other emergency service workers, such as paramedics and firefighters.
The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Bill proposes creating a Restitution Fund, which will contribute to the costs of running support services for police officers who have been assaulted during the course of their duties. In the future, anyone convicted of such an assault will contribute to the fund through a restitution order. Money raised will go to special police charities, such as the Police Benevolent Fund.
However, the proposed new fund will not cover other vital emergency service workers, such as firefighters and paramedics, assaulted during the course of their duties. According to figures released by the Scottish Ambulance Service, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the number of attacks on ambulance crews across Scotland rose from 228 in 2010 to 306 in 2012, with a total of 839 verbal and physical attacks recorded over the past three years.
Peter Lockhart, member of the Law Society of Scotland's Criminal Law Committee said:
"The Society fully supports the proposal that those convicted of assaulting police officers pay into a fund to support the victim's recovery. However, we question why these provisions are not extended to encompass other emergency service workers who are assaulted at work, such as paramedics and firefighters.
"Paramedics and firefighters play an absolutely vital role in our society, saving lives and providing expert emergency services when people need them most. We see no reason why they should be left out of such an important new fund.
"Ideally, those persons convicted of assaulting any type of emergency service worker would contribute to the fund.
"We agree with the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee's view that the fund 'could prove divisive' if it is not extended to cover other occupations."
ENDS 18 JUNE 2013
Notes to editors
Section 21 of the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Bill seeks to introduce restitution orders for those who are convicted of the statutory offence of assaulting a police officer or member of police staff, as set out in the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012.
The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Bill, stage 1 debate, will take place on Wednesday 19 June.
The Law Society of Scotland's briefing for the stage 1 debate can be viewed here.
The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Bill can be viewed here.
The Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee stage 1 report on the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Bill was published on 3 June 2013. It can be viewed here
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18 June 2013