Drug user 'masturbated in ambulance'
By Kellee Nolan
May 23, 2008 05:25pm
SECURITY cameras may be needed in ambulances to protect both patients and paramedics, the ambulance union said today, after one of its members was cleared of digital rape of a drug user.
Although found not guilty, former paramedic Simon Paul Howe must now fight through arbitration to get his job back, after the Metropolitan Ambulance Service (MAS) last year sacked him for contract breaches related to the incident.
Mr Howe, 33, was yesterday acquitted in court of indecently assaulting a patient in the back of an ambulance.
Ambulance Employees Australia (AEA) state secretary Steve McGhie today said the allegations and the refusal of the MAS to support Mr Howe had paramedics worried.
"Ambulance paramedics throughout Victoria are very concerned that they could be put in a vulnerable position with a patient or a relative of a patient that might make serious allegations against them, and their employers will not support them," Mr McGhie said.
"So we've got to try and avoid that and if that means in the future we have to have some other types of security in the back of the ambulance, if it means that cameras have to be put into ambulances, they may be things of the future in ambulances."
Mr McGhie said the 23-year-old woman who accused Mr Howe of assaulting her had the illicit drugs GHB and cannabis in her system on the night of the incident.
The court had heard Mr Howe was trying to restrain her as she thrashed her arms and legs and masturbated loudly in the ambulance.
Mr McGhie said paramedics increasingly had to deal with patients who had taken GHB and the illicit drug ice, making the patients violent and erratic.
He said ambulance officers sometimes now refused to transfer patients unless a third person travelled with them, which could delay emergency treatment.
The MAS said even though Mr Howe was acquitted, it would not reinstate him, saying it was "determined to maintain the high level of trust that the community has for its paramedics".
Having always maintained his innocence, Mr Howe today said he did not know why his former employer had not stood by him through the 18-month ordeal.
"I have absolutely no idea, I've not had a single complaint or blemish in my career, I've been highly regarded," Mr Howe said.
"There are senior paramedics of more advanced training than I who continue to come forward and speak to me and say 'if you need any reference for any degree of your professionalism please feel free to use me'.
"So I have absolutely no idea, no clue and it's just appalling that I've never once had their support."
He said the allegations and being sacked had "shattered" him, but he was overwhelmed with support from other paramedics.
"They've seen how I've been treated and they are very, very cautious and very afraid of the situation that they can find themselves in," he said.
The MAS said it sacked Mr Howe because he breached his contract by not providing an incident report following the allegations.