Violence towards first responders is a problem on the rise, says NZ First MP Darroch Ball, who is pushing for a law change to deter the high number of assaults. It comes after a paramedic was kicked unconscious last night in an attempted burglary in Warkworth, north of Auckland.
"Incidents like this are becoming more and more frequent...and it’s getting worse," Mr Ball said.
Mr Ball’s proposed law, which would impose a minimum sentence of six months imprisonment to an offender who assaults a first responder, passed its first hurdle in Parliament last year, with strong support from paramedics.
He said the high frequency of assaults was due to a lack of respect for the uniform making paramedics, police, firefighters and correction staff "somewhat of a target".
"Right now, there are inadequate laws to deter people from lashing out," he said.
"We’re drawing a line in the sand… to make sure we get the message out there that it’s not acceptable to assault people who are quite literally trying to help them."
Mr Ball said the bill was not the only way to stop assaults on first responders, "but what it will do is fix the problem right now".
The bill passed last December with cross-party support and is currently in the Select Committee stage.
During the first reading, NZ First MP Mark Patterson said figures from January 1 to December 10, 2019, revealed 1800 assaults on police officers and 655 assaults against prison officers.
He said in 2018 there were 747 abuse cases on ambulance and Fire and Emergency NZ response crews.
"These first responders are often dealing with distressed, drunk or drugged individuals, and it is a dangerous situation all too often. Those figures are stark, and I'm quite, actually, alarmed by them," Mr Patterson said.
St John director of operations Norma Lane described yesterday's incident as "despicable" and "unacceptable".
"She has endured an horrific ordeal while on duty to help others."