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Crime

The Bank Holiday plea as emergency worker assaults continue to rise

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EMERGENCY workers in Wales are reminding the public to treat them with respect in the face of a continued rise in assaults.

The monthly average of emergency worker assaults has increased from 203 in 2019, to 226 in 2020, to 237 in 2021, representing a year-on-year increase of 4.9 per cent.

More than 1,440 assaults were committed in the six-month period 01 July 2021 to 31 December 2021, new figures have revealed.

The top five most common types of assault were kicking, spitting, verbal abuse, punching and shoving.

Among the victims is Joanna Paskell, a paramedic in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, who was assaulted last May by a patient at Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales.

Joanna, an ambulance worker of 25 years, was subsequently left with panic attacks.

The mother-of-four recalls: “It was while we were trying to move the patient from the trolley to a bed that she lashed out and punched me straight in the chest.

“I was stunned as it was completely out of the blue, and there had been no indication that she was going to get aggressive.

“Although shaken, I thought nothing of it at the time, just taking painkillers for the pain.

“It was only as I was getting ready for my next shift that realisation dawned, and I actually had a panic attack.

“I subsequently had to take time off work.

“It took a lot for me to come back, and even now, I’m very cautious around patients.”

Meanwhile, Andy Davies, a paramedic in Llangefni, Anglesey, was left with a dislocated shoulder when he was assaulted by a patient last June.

Andy recalls: “The patient was becoming verbally aggressive to the point where we actually called for police back-up.

“As I tried to assess him, he threw me to the floor, partially dislocating my left shoulder.

“I had to have six weeks of physiotherapy afterwards to help me recover from the injury.

“I’m ex-military police so I’m quite good at compartmentalising these things, but it doesn’t mean to say we should accept it.”

Ahead of the extended Bank Holiday weekend, when assaults will typically spike, emergency workers are appealing to the public to treat them with respect.

Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “The last couple of years have been a fraught time for all of us, but that’s no excuse to assault an emergency worker, who are people, just like you and I.

“With a Bank Holiday weekend comes lots of people enjoying the revelry, and with alcohol consumption usually comes an increase in assaults.

“There were 80 verbal attacks alone on our ambulance control room staff in the second half of last year.

“We know it’s distressing when you’re waiting for help, but abusing our call handlers is not the answer – if anything, it could potentially delay help.

“On the road meanwhile, crews might have no choice but to leave a scene if their safety is compromised, and that’s not helpful for anyone, especially the patient.

“The debt of gratitude we owe to our emergency workers has never been greater, so please treat them with respect.”

In the six-month reporting period, almost half of emergency worker assaults took place in South East Wales; Cardiff, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Bridgend were the most prolific local authority areas.

For 2021 as a whole, Denbighshire in North Wales had the highest rate of emergency worker assaults at 1.24 per 1,000 population.

Offenders aged 26-35 account for the highest portion of offending (21.9 per cent), and alcohol intoxication continues to apply to a third of incidents.

Twenty three incidents involved the use or threat of use of a weapon, eight of which caused injury to the victim.

 Assaults on police account for more than two thirds of the total number; there were an average 165 victims each month in 2021, up from 152 in 2020.

Pam Kelly, Chief Constable at Gwent Police, said: “Every day, our officers are working to protect and serve local residents and businesses.   

“Being a victim of hate crime or being assaulted on duty is not acceptable for members of our own community as they go about their job.

“We already ask a lot of our officers and staff in the course of their working day as they often deal with situations most of us hope never to encounter. 

“Working where the threat of verbal or physical assault is an increasing possibility makes the role even more challenging. 

“We work hard to support any officer who has faced this situation and we will take firm action against those individuals who cause them harm.”

Carl Foulkes, Chief Constable at North Wales Police, added: “Every single day our officers, staff and volunteers are often dealing with very difficult and challenging situations, putting themselves in harm’s way to uphold the law and protect the public.

“They must be able to carry out their duties as safely as possible.

“Being assaulted is not and should never be regarded as ‘part of the job’.

“Assault is a traumatic offence that causes great distress to anyone, and it is no different when the victim is an emergency worker.

“It is wholly unacceptable for them to be threatened, attacked, verbally abused or spat at – and those responsible should face the full force of the law.

“Assaults stay with the victims for the rest of their careers, and none of my officers and staff should have to go to work serving the public and be afraid of being assaulted.

“With the busy summer season almost upon us, please respect and protect our emergency workers.”

May 2021 saw the highest volume of emergency worker assaults with 294, rising as Covid-19 restrictions were eased across Wales.

More than 100 instances are known to be Covid-19-related, for example, where an assault occurred during police attendance for a breach of regulations.

Under the Assault on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act, the definition of an emergency worker includes police, fire and ambulance staff, as well as prison staff and NHS workers.

Judith Paget, Chief Executive of NHS Wales, said: “Emergency workers provide life-saving and life-changing care every day in often difficult circumstances and deserve to be treated with respect.

“Any form of attack on emergency workers is completely unacceptable and can have a significant impact on someone’s mental health and wellbeing.

“During the pandemic emergency workers worked tirelessly on the frontline to keep Wales safe and now they deserve to feel safe and appreciated for the great work they do.

“We must all work together to reduce their risk of being exposed to violence.”

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of the With Us, Not Against Us campaign, created by the Joint Emergency Service Group in Wales to try and reduce the number of assaults on emergency workers.

You can pledge your support on social media using the hashtag #WithUsNotAgainstUs or #GydaNiNidYnEinHerbyn.

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Crime

Recycling company brought before Judge after JCB crushes employee

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A PEMBROKESHIRE-BASED recycling company has been brought before a district judge after an employee was seriously injured by a JCB loading shovel.

TBS Recycling and Skip Hire appeared before Judge Mark Layton at Haverfordwest magistrates court earlier this week when company director, Steven Thomas, pleaded guilty to failing to discharge general health, safety and welfare duties to an employee.

The incident occurred on March 31, 2021, at the TBS recycling and skip hire unit which is situated at the Waterston Industrial Estate, between Neyland and Milford Haven.

“An employee of the company was working on the site when he spotted something caught in the wheel of a four-ton JCB,” commented a lawyer for the Health and Safety Executive.

“He went to clear it and the person who was in the [JCB] driving seat knew he was doing it. But he was distracted and believed the other employee had left. So he lowered the shovel, but it crushed him.”

As a result, the employee sustained crushed ribs and damage to his lungs and breathing.

“But he’s since made a good recovery,” said the Health and Safety Executive lawyer.

Steven Thomas, of Cross Farm, Walwyns Castle Road, Ties Cross, will be sentenced by Judge Layton when he sits at Llanelli Magistrates Court on June 6.

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Crime

Pembrokeshire car salesman caught driving on cocaine

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A PEMBROKESHIRE car salesman has appeared before a District Judge after being caught driving a cream BMW through Kilgetty after taking cocaine.

Fraser Finlay was stopped by police officers on the night of October 3, 2023, as he drove the vehicle along Clayford Road in Wooden.

The officers’ suspicions had been aroused when the trade insurance which covered his vehicle failed to show up on their system.

A roadside breath test was carried out which proved positive and Finlay, 25, was conveyed to a police custody suite where further blood tests were carried out for analysis.

These showed he had 20ug/L of cocaine in his system; the legal threshold limit is 10. He was also found to have 800 ug/L of the cocaine derivative benzoylecgonine in his system; the legal limit is 50.

“This conviction means that my client is most likely to see an end to his job,” his solicitor, David Williams, informed District Judge Mark Layton sitting at Haverfordwest magistrates court earlier this week.

“This is because he works as a car salesman.”

Finlay was disqualified from driving for 17 months. He was fined £450 and ordered to pay a £180 court surcharge and £85 costs.

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Crime

Tenby man admits defecating on floor of mother’s property

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A COURT has heard how a Tenby mother feared for her safety after her son threatened to kill her before defecating on the floor outside her bathroom.

Daniel Preston, 37, arrived at Rhian Thomas’ property on the evening of March 26.

“He was heavily intoxicated and told his mother to f* off and called her a c*,” Crown Prosecutor Abigail Jackson told Haverfordwest magistrates this week.

“A few hours later she was in her bedroom and he tried to enter, kicking the door saying “I will f kill you.”

At this point Preston’s mother began fearing for her safety.

“She became scared and called the police, but the defendant then came into her bedroom and tried to grab her,” continued Ms Jackson. “She screamed at him to stop but he tried to grab the phone off her.

“During her phone call to the officers, the police advised her to find a safe place so she went downstairs to the bathroom and locked the door. “

But Preston tried to gain access to the bathroom by repeatedly kicking the door.

“I thought it was going to break,” Rhian Thomas, told the police during her interview.

Ms Jackson said the defendant then proceeded to defecate on the floor outside the bathroom, before smearing the faeces onto the bathroom door.

“This has left me scared,” Ms Thomas said in a victim impact statement that was read out to the court.

“I can’t live like this anymore. When he comes home he takes over everything, and I’m scared that he will blame me and attack me when he’s released [from custody].”

When police officers arrived at the property they discovered Preston slumped on the floor.

“He then became aggressive and abusive and was making threats to harm himself,” said Ms Jackson. “They officers tried to restrain him but he began shouting and reached out with his right hand, attempting to strike one of the officers [Pc Barry] with his open hand which she managed to block.”

Preston pleaded guilty to the common assault of an emergency worker, the common assault of Rhian Thimas and causing criminal damage to his mother’s property by defecating on the floor. He appeared before Haverfordwest magistrates via a video link from Swansea prison where he has been remanded in custody since the offences were committed last month.

“You have caused your mother a great deal of fear,” commented District Judge Mark Layton when imposing sentence.

Preston was sentenced to eight weeks in custody by District Judge Mark Layton, half of which will be served in prison, the remainder on a post-sentence supervision.

A two-year restraining order was imposed preventing him from having any contact with his mother, not entering her property and not going within 100 metres of her address. He was ordered to pay £85 court costs and a £154 surcharge.

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