I have noted in my research and by speaking to campaigners with expertise, such as George Parsonage, that this is, sadly, all too common in many communities. Will the UK Government consider carrying out a wider, year-round campaign rather than just during Drowning Prevention Week? Perhaps they could look to the Scottish Government’s drowning prevention strategy, which is funded and is working hard to deliver education and other public goods.
Like Jim Shannon, I am struck by the lack of penalty for the undoubted public harm caused by tampering with life-saving equipment. I believe that there should be a specific aggravated offence related to tampering with life-saving equipment.
Fianna Fáil Senator Keith Swanick has promoted a private Member’s Bill in Ireland that would make it an offence to steal or damage life-saving equipment such as defibrillators and lifebuoys. I do not want to stray too far from the issue of water safety, but many campaigns have fundraised to install defibrillators, and it is beyond belief that somebody would go out to damage one. I would argue that they also require protection.
The penalties proposed by Senator Swanick include fines of up to €50,000 and a jail term of up to five years, which are quite different from the £90 fine in England. Will the Minister consider introducing a similar measure? I do not know whether we will get new private Members’ Bills or whether this Session of Parliament will ever come to an end. In the meantime, it would be useful if the Minister would consider other mechanisms that might be used to protect this vital resource and whether it could be placed in any existing legislation.
Duncan Spiers has said to me:
“The reason we want the law changed is to ensure the safety equipment is not tampered with…anyone tampering with this should be charged with putting a life at risk and not just vandalism. Our campaign is about accident prevention measures and anyone that goes into the Clyde by accident or suicide attempt should have the best chance of getting out of the water”.
I wholeheartedly agree.
The Glasgow campaign is called “Taking a lifebelt is taking a life”. I ask the Minister to support the campaign and do all in her power to ensure that life-saving equipment is always there for those who need it in their moment of greatest need.