Paramedics deserve protection
Heather Sharpe, like every paramedic answering a 999 emergency call, believed she was going to save a life when she walked through the door of a house in Newtownabbey. Instead she was left fearing for her own life after being attacked by a man in the property.
In a terrifying assault, he tore her clothes and tried to throw her down stairs. But even when she escaped, she went back into the house to make sure the man's wife was not being harmed. Modestly, she records her bravery as just what paramedics do - a desire to help people.
Sadly, this was no isolated case. Last year, for example, more than 250 verbal and physical assaults were recorded against staff of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.
It beggars belief that men and women whose job is solely to help those in distress should become the target of thugs.
A casual trawl through the internet will reveal numerous examples of attacks on paramedics, frequently by the very people they are trying to assist. Drink and drugs undoubtedly play a part, yet it seems incredible to most people that anyone would want to assault these ambulance staff.
Few of us would want the job of paramedics. When they get a call for help they are never entirely sure what emergency will confront them. It could be someone suffering from a heart attack or who has fallen or who has been involved in a serious road accident.
It is a challenging occupation, but its reward is that people's lives are saved, relatives are comforted and the paramedics have the satisfaction that comes from a job well done.
They, like all members of the emergency services, deserve our utmost gratitude for being there when we need them. And society must show its contempt and abhorrence of those who would assault these caring individuals.
Incredibly, the thug who attacked Heather Sharpe was never charged with any offence. While she was left to ponder her narrow escape and had to take time off work to recover, he suffered no sanction.
Tonight, paramedics will be called into action to deal with over-indulging revellers ringing in the New Year. Hopefully they will not suffer any intimidation or assault.
Paramedics, like all front line emergency workers, need protection and those who attack them should be subject to jail terms which will act as a deterrent to others so inclined.