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Trial sees ambulance crews given body-worn cameras

London Ambulance Service crews have begun wearing body cameras to protect them from violent assaults and threats.A close up showing Gary's body worn camera attached to his uniform

The new kit is being rolled out as part of a trial from 22 February, starting in areas where our staff and volunteers are considered to be most at risk, based on previous incidents.

In the first phase of the trial crews from four ambulance stations: two in north London and two in south London will be wearing the cameras.

Medics can press a button to start recording if patients or members of the public become aggressive or abusive.

Emergency Ambulance Crew Gary Watson, who is based at Croydon Ambulance Station, will be among the first people to wear one. He was violently assaulted by a drunk patient three years ago.

He said: “We need these cameras. We get up every day to help people, not to be severely beaten.

Gary stood in front of an ambulance with his body worn camera attached to his uniform
Gary Watson

“Wearing these cameras should act as a deterrent and if it doesn’t then at least there will be evidence which will hopefully mean tougher sentences for criminals.”

Gary, 33, suffered a torn ligament and serious injuries to his face, throat and neck in the attack in January 2018.

Two other medics were also injured and a fourth badly shaken. A man was found guilty but only given a suspended sentence.

Our latest figures show there have been 529 violent incidents between April 2020 and January this year.

Those attacks include kicking, punching, head-butting, biting and spitting and there have also been 31 assaults with weapons.

Meanwhile, during the same period, there have been 834 incidents of verbal abuse and threats.

There are concerns that many more incidents go unreported, despite a campaign to encourage staff and volunteers to report all abuse.

As well as the cameras, we recruited two violence reduction officers and launched our #NotPartoftheJob campaign, as part of ongoing work to protect our staff and volunteers.

So far this financial year, 27 people have been successfully prosecuted for attacks on ambulance staff – 18 of those were jailed.

Gary's body worn camera attached to his uniform

Louise Murray, one of our violence reduction officers, said: “We are working closely with the police to help support staff and volunteers when they have been assaulted or abused.

“Any video footage recorded on our cameras can be used as evidence and in turn we hope it will help to secure more prosecutions.”

Recent legislation means anyone found guilty of attacking emergency services staff and volunteers can be jailed for 12 months; those convicted of more serious cases of assault can face up to two years in prison.

London Ambulance Service chief executive Garrett Emmerson said: “Nobody should feel unsafe or threatened at work – particularly our crews and call handlers who continue to make huge sacrifices to care for patients and have never worked harder.

“Looking after our people, keeping them safe and supporting their wellbeing is our top priority.

“It is shameful that our staff and volunteers can be abused while caring for others and we will always push for the prosecution of anyone who attacks them.”

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