High Court rules Hatzola paramedics breached traffic laws

Two volunteer paramedics "seeking only to do good" must be convicted for using sirens and flashing blue lights, the High Court has ruled.

Judges ordered "with regret" that Michael Issler and Mordechai Bamberger breached traffic laws while attending a crash in Greater Manchester in 2012.

The pair volunteer for Hatzola, a Jewish fast response ambulance service.

They were originally acquitted but the High Court upheld an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions' (DPP).

However, the judges suggested the law needed to be changed.

The DPP lodged an appeal against Bury Magistrates' Court's decision to acquit the men because their vehicles were being "used for ambulance purposes".

'Saddened'

After hearing the case, Mr Justice Jay said road traffic legislation did not allow "first responder" voluntary organisations like Hatzola to use sirens and flashing blue lights without escaping sanctions.

But Mr Jay and Lady Justice Rafferty said there might be scope for Parliament to change the rules, given advances in medical science.

Mr Issler and Mr Bamberger had used sirens and flashing blue lights, or blues-and-twos, while responding to a car and motorcycle crash in Prestwich on 14 October.

They told police they were from Hatzola Fast Response. They were then allowed to offer medical help until an ambulance arrived.

The pair carried equipment including defibrillators, oxygen, and neck braces, as well as dressings, medications and some drugs in their vehicles.

Trained paramedics

Hatzola's response time is "under two minutes" compared with seven to 10 minutes for the NHS ambulance service, the magistrates' court had heard.

Justice Rafferty said: "I am saddened that medically trained citizens seeking only to do good, part of a scrupulously professional organisation with high standards and conspicuously shunning gratuitous publicity, find themselves effectively constrained in their efforts."

Hatzola originated in the US about 40 years ago with the objective of preserving life, and has since spread to the UK, the court was told.

It provides emergency first-aid cover in defined areas, such as Salford and parts of Bury, both in Greater Manchester - primarily but not exclusively for the Jewish community.

In Salford, there are 20 Hatzola members, of which 10 are trained paramedics, including Mr Issler and Mr Bamberger.

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