Derbyshire Police Federation

Tougher sentences may be needed for ‘coronavirus cough’ attacks

27 March 2020

Derbyshire Police Federation chair Tony Wetton says members of the public who ‘coronavirus coughed’ in officers’ faces should be ashamed of themselves.

And he has supported calls for more robust laws to be brought in if people continue to do it.

Limited incidents over the past few days have seen some police officers around the country coughed or spat at with the threat or intent of passing on COVID-19 in the process.

This has led to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) threatening a charge of common assault to those who do it and the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has called for even more robust laws if the situation worsens.

PFEW chair John Apter called it a ‘disgusting act’.

In response to the attacks, Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions said he was ‘appalled’ and stated that anyone who threatens a key worker as they do their job, will be prosecuted.

Tony explained: “It’s quite simple, the people that do this sort of thing should be totally ashamed of themselves. I can’t believe we are discussing such a disgusting act in this current climate.

“Our officers are putting themselves on the front-line to protect, inform and care for the general public and for people to abuse them in this way is awful. The police will continue to do their jobs working long hours in testing conditions, risking developing the coronavirus themselves and we must do everything we can to protect them from this sort of action.

“We fully support the national chair’s views around tougher punishments to be available so these people can feel the full weight of the law.

“I’m encouraged to hear that the CPS is taking this issue very seriously and has indicated that, despite the restrictions in court activity, COVID-19 related offending will be dealt with robustly."

The national Federation chair says reports of a vile minority using the virus as a weapon against police officers trying to keep them safe beggared belief.

“Coughing and spitting, threatening to spread COVID-19 to my colleagues is a disgusting act and must not be tolerated on any level,” he explained, “I have raised this serious issue of people using the virus as a weapon or to cause fear with the Home Secretary this week – suggesting there must be emergency legislation put into place if we see an increase of these kind of incidents.”

Two men have already been prosecuted for such actions, one in the Metropolitan Police area and one in Blackburn.

John explained: “Yes, there are offences already available but they are generally minor and do not attract the level of seriousness they deserve. We need to see a strong response for those who assault our 999 colleagues in this way - those dedicated men and women who are putting their lives on the line during this crisis.

“Until then, I will keep pushing this as an issue because our emergency service workers deserve nothing less.”

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