On October 25, Aftonbladet reported how an ambulance during an emergency call in Täby was hit by a stone that had been thrown from a footbridge and landed on the hood. A few meters further towards the vehicle and the stone had broken the windscreen and probably caused a collision with injuries to staff and patient. Maybe even their death.
For more than two decades now, attacks on rescue personnel (ambulance and fire brigade / rescue service) have been a new type of crime in Sweden. Note that I do not write “blue light staff” which also includes the police. For attacks on the police have historically occurred since the riots in Berzelii park in Stockholm in 1951. But rescue personnel have not previously been attacked as amusement..
The moral principle that medical personnel can never be hindered in their medical work even during strife emerged in the wake of the Crimean War, towards the end of the 1850s. The principle was codified in the very first Geneva Convention of 1864. Sweden acceded the same year. But so culturally transcendent was this basic idea that the Ottoman sultan in his time still became one of the first European monarchs to sign the convention the following year, three years before Russia, ten years before Romania, 20 years before the United States, 22 years before Japan and 42 years before Germany.
Attacks on rescue workers thus violate one of the most basic and cross-cultural norms imaginable. The crimes came to light already ten years ago. And although the phenomenon has not escaped politics, it still occurs. Thus, decision-makers have not taken the issue as seriously as it deserves.
Significantly, when the National Association of Firefighters in southern Sweden in March 2009 demanded harsher punishment for throwing stones in firefighting operations, the then Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask (M) was hesitant: “Attacking the rescue service is already criminal,” Ask replied. It was important to get to grips with “those who are doing this”, but she also believed “that we need to find the reasons why young people are doing this”. (Sydsvenskan 25 / 03-09)
In 2016, however, Ask exercised in the Riksdag for stricter penalties for such crimes, as it was an “unacceptable development” (Motion 2016/17: 3238). But then she was no longer Minister of Justice. It was instead under her successor, Morgan Johansson (S), that the punishment was increased, from the new year 2020.
Until August this year, 15 people had been prosecuted and six sentenced to prison, at most one year and eight months. But preliminary investigations into 19 of a total of 42 criminal suspicions had been dropped. The punishment should be dissuasive, Johansson said, but also that one must attack the causes of the crimes.
On November 10, during an ongoing alarm, two young people smashed the side window of an ambulance in Sollentuna. The patient had to wait for a new ambulance for transport to the hospital. This in an acute situation where every minute can be the difference between life and death.
The punishment apparently does not deter. And the causes of crime have not been overcome.