CFR Ireland continues its call for cross-party support for a Life Saving Equipment Bill, which would impose a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment or a €50,000 fine (or both) for those convicted of interfering with a defibrillator or life buoy.

According to CFR Ireland, its continued call for the urgent introduction of the legislation has helped moved this Bill along, which is currently before the Seanad in the third stage.

“We are now asking for further help in reaching out to elected officials to give a reminder that their support is still needed. E-mail your senators, TDs and local representatives, asking for them to apply pressure on behalf of their constituents,” it noted in a recent circular to all community first responders (CFRs) around Ireland.

With over 13,000 Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) in Ireland, CFRs and other voluntary groups around the country have fundraised to purchase and install these lifesaving devices. In the event of a cardiac arrest, CPR and defibrillation within the first 10 minutes is the most important intervention. The patient’s chances of survival drop by 10% for every minute, treatment is delayed.

John Fitzgerald, Chair of CFR Ireland, said his organisation believes that strict penalties should apply to those guilty of theft of or damage to these lifesaving devices. “The issue of defibrillator theft and damage is not new, and it is time for action,” he noted.

Dr David Menzies, Medical Director of CFR Ireland, said: “Damage to, or theft of a defibrillator installed for public use could be a death sentence for a patient if it were not available for a patient in cardiac arrest as a result. It is that serious. Locking up AEDs isn’t the ideal solution – you wouldn’t lock up a fire extinguisher.”

Public access defibrillators, which had been donated by Bray CFR Group in Wicklow, were vandalised and damaged beyond repair in May. This is just one of many such cases reported around Ireland, including the Order of Malta in Drogheda, Co. Louth, Wicklow Town CFRs, Meath, Bray, Arklow, Limerick and Cork.