'We will bring culprits to justice' says fire brigade boss following rise in attacks

Fire brigade chiefs have pledged to do whatever they can to crackdown on attacks on firefighters across the region and bring the culprits to justice.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 2:42 pm

Cleveland Fire Authority heard how from April 2020 to March 2021 there were 52 incidents of violence to staff recorded across the region – an increase of 13% - or six assaults, from the previous year.

Ian Hayton, the authority’s chief fire officer, said offenders range from “young children to young adults” and attacks include incidents from missiles being thrown to verbal abuse.

Mr Hayton, speaking at the fire authority annual general meeting, added violence to staff is a “plague” which all emergency services are acutely aware of.

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Ian Hayton, of Cleveland Fire Brigade.

He said: “We try and do whatever we can to protect our staff in relation to the protective equipment that we can give them, the training that we give them to defuse conflict situations, and then pursue any perpetrators as far as we can.

“It is an area that we have to certainly keep our eye on. It is one of those things that we will not tolerate and we clearly will pursue.

“We will then work in partnership with the appropriate agencies to make sure we bring the culprits to justice.”

He added every single member of staff has the opportunity to wear a body worn camera, should they choose to.

Scorched earth after an area of grassland at Summerhill Country Park, in Hartlepool, was set on fire earlier this year.

Cllr Billy Ayre, Redcar and Cleveland Council’s representative on the authority, added those caught should be given the harshest punishment possible.

He said: “These offenders of such violence, if they’re caught they should be given the most harshest penalty, because they’re putting lives and limbs at risk of the vast majority of our communities.

“I just wonder what would happen if it had been one of their houses that had caught fire, would they be showing violence then?

“I don’t know what the answer is to it.”

Mr Hayton also noted, in more positive news for the fire authority, they had seen a decrease in deliberate rubbish fires and road traffic accidents attended across the area over the past year.

However he added this was likely due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated lockdowns which took place.