A local MLA has called for stiffer penalties for those convicted of attacking paramedics and ambulance staff.
Paul Frew said a “clear deterrent is required” after figures revealed 483 incidents of assault on ambulance staff in 2017-2018.
The DUP MLA had previously secured a change in the law to ensure the punishment for those convicted of attacks on paramedics matched those for attacks on police officers and firefighters.
“Our ambulance staff, and all those working in emergency medicine operate within a very difficult environment,” Mr Frew said.
He added: “Those who would attack those staff in any way are not just increasing the pressures upon our health service, but are attacking staff who are doing an invaluable job on behalf of the community.
“Within the 483 abuse incidents reported in 2017/18 there will have been physical assault and violence.
“The law places such attacks on a par with those against police officers and firefighters and it is vital that incidents are prosecuted and those responsible facing the full weight of the law.”
Mr Frew said successful prosecutions through the courts would send out a “very clear message” of how seriously such incidents are viewed.
“It is clear however that both for ambulance crews and firefighters, such prosecutions have not been forthcoming,” Mr Frew said.
He added: “A clear deterrent combined with a strong message of education about the impact these attacks have on the service delivered to us all can hopefully see this situation improve.”