A North East MP has backed calls for tougher sentences to be handed to people who attack our 'amazing' emergency service workers.
Over the past three years, the North East Ambulance Service reported 171 incidents of assaults on its staff to the police.
Of those, 40 resulted in criminal convictions but none of them were sentenced to spend time in prison.
Wansbeck Labour MP Ian Lavery says he was astounded to discover the number of attacks on paramedics in the region and is wanting the culprits to face harsher sentences in court.
He said: "I have spent time with the North East Ambulance Service on numerous occasions. These people do an amazing job caring for the public and saving lives.
"These figures show emergency workers are being attacked on unprecedented levels and I am quite frankly astounded. It is totally unacceptable behaviour.
"People who attack emergency workers are the root of evil in our society. These workers do not deserve this and more needs to be done to protect them.
"I just don't understand why you would attack an NHS worker. They might be responding to an emergency and seconds could make the difference between life and death.
"There needs to be a restructure of the judiciary sentencing for crimes against people in our emergency services.
"They need to face the justice they deserve. A total of 40 convictions and none being sent to prison is shocking. We need to get to grips with this and protect our emergency workers."
It comes after Luke Gallagher, 28, avoided a jail term after subjecting student paramedic Andrew Raisbeck and clinical care assistant Chris Bradley to a vicious attack while they were trying to treat a patient in Blyth.
When asked by Andrew to calm down, Gallagher punched him and knocked him to the floor, cutting his eyebrow and causing bruises to his back and ribs.
He later smashed the glass of the ambulance, injuring Chris in the process. He resisted arrest, knocking an attending police officer to the ground.
Gallagher, of Blyth Street, Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, pleaded guilty to four charges of assault of an emergency worker, common assault, criminal damage and obstructing or resisting a police officer in execution of their duty.
However, the judge reduced the maximum custodial sentence down to eight months, suspended for 18 months.
In 2019, more than 11,000 people were prosecuted for assaulting an emergency worker, with a quarter of those found guilty receiving a suspended sentence or immediate custody.
Last month, the Government launched a consultation on doubling the maximum penalty for those found guilty of assaulting emergency workers to two years.
The NEAS has called on the court system to impose the full powers available to them when it comes to sentencing defendants who have assaulted its staff.
NEAS Chief Executive Helen Ray said: "We take any form of assault on our staff extremely seriously and will continue to do everything within our power to support anyone who is abused in the course of doing their job to fight for appropriate justice on their behalf.
"There is an expectation from our service, and also from the wider public, that an attack on our staff should always result in the maximum sentence possible, recognising that those hearing those cases have a duty to take into consideration prior convictions and any mitigations brought forward to the court.
"Our staff are here to help; they and their loved ones should not have to fear coming in to work.
"We chose to use the recent consultation to send a strong message that the current options for sentencing for our judiciary make it difficult for them to impose punishment that will be seen by both our staff and the wider public as appropriate to fit the seriousness of the offence."
The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 means anyone found guilty of assaulting a police officer, firefighter, prison officer or paramedic faced a maximum of 12 months in prison.
Assault can cover acts such as a push, shove or being spat at. Judges must also consider tougher sentences for more serious offences – such as GBH or sexual assault – if the victim was an emergency worker.
Justice Secretary & Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, said: "Being punched, kicked or spat at should never be part of the job for our valiant emergency workers who put their lives on the line to keep the public safe.
"Now more than ever they must be able to do their extraordinary work without the fear of being attacked or assaulted, which is why we’re determined to look at how our laws can protect them further."
The Police Federation welcomed the consultation, but warned any increase in sentences could be meaningless without the full support of the courts, including in applying those sentences consistently.
National Chairman John Apter said: "The Police Federation has been relentless in pushing for an increase in maximum jail sentences for those who attack emergency workers.
"The Police Federation has been working closely alongside the Sentencing Council to reform sentencing guidelines, bring these up to date, and make them fit for purpose.
"Assaulting a police officer is completely unacceptable and there must be a suitable deterrent. I accept there will always be times where an offender does not receive a custodial sentence. However, this must be the exception and not the norm."