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Conviction rates for violent assaults on emergency workers on the decline in Scotland

Number of convictions for physical assaults under the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act down

Number of convictions under the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act down despite a rise in assaults

Convictions for assaults on nurses and emergency workers in Scotland decreased over six years according to new figures.

Convictions decline despite rise in assaults

An analysis by the Scottish Conservatives found there were 12,759 physical assaults in 2017-18 but only 190 convictions under the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005.

This compares with 334 convictions from 10,175 assaults against emergency workers in 2012-13.

The Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005 specifies a penalty of up to 12 months imprisonment and/or a 10,000 fine for those who assault an emergency worker.

In 2008, the act was updated to include assaults

Number of convictions under the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act down despite a rise in assaults 


Picture: Daniel Mitchell

Convictions for assaults on nurses and emergency workers in Scotland decreased over six years according to new figures.

Convictions decline despite rise in assaults

An analysis by the Scottish Conservatives found there were 12,759 physical assaults in 2017-18 but only 190 convictions under the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005.

This compares with 334 convictions from 10,175 assaults against emergency workers in 2012-13.

The Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005 specifies a penalty of up to 12 months imprisonment and/or a £10,000 fine for those who assault an emergency worker.

In 2008, the act was updated to include assaults against doctors, nurses and midwives while they are working.  

'An insult to NHS staff'

The Scottish Conservative party’s shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said the low conviction rate was an insult to NHS staff.

‘Someone who attacks an NHS worker has nearly a 100% chance of getting away with it,’ he said.

RCN Scotland’s associate director, Eileen McKenna, said low levels of conviction under the act were concerning and the college expects to see steps taken to seek convictions where appropriate.  

Figures may be misleading according to Scottish Government 

However, in response to the Conservatives' findings, a Scottish Government spokesperson said the figures only related to prosecutions under the Emergency Workers Act and does not include convictions prosecuted under other offences that allow for longer sentences.

The spokesperson added: ‘Police will investigate any allegation of criminal behaviour reported to them and, where appropriate, submit a report to the procurator fiscal who makes decisions about prosecutions.’

‘Where a prosecution proceeds, the court will determine in each case whether or not there should be a conviction based on all the facts before them.’

However, the Government did not provide any figures on convictions prosecuted under other offences relating to emergency workers.

In 2018, England and Wales introduced a law regarding assaults on emergency workers, including NHS nurses.

Northern Ireland currently has no equivalent legislation.


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