Tougher laws may be needed over ‘coronavirus cough’ attacks


PUBLISHED 27 Mar 2020

IN News

Cambridgeshire Police Federation chair Liz Groom is backing calls for tougher laws to be available to prosecute those who ‘coronavirus cough’ in officers’ faces.

Although limited in their number, incidents across the country in the past few days have seen police officers 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.

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

Liz said: “This is a truly disgraceful thing to do and anyone caught doing it should feel the full weight of the law. While our officers are out there in unprecedented times trying to inform and protect the public, we need to make sure they are given the protection they need to be kept as safe as they can be.

“Spitting or coughing in someone’s face in more normal times is abhorrent but to do it in the current climate is a real low. We must do everything we can to stop it.”

The national chair of the Police Federation, John Apter, has also condemned those who are coughing at officers.

He said: “Reports of a vile minority using the virus as a weapon against police officers trying to keep them safe beggars belief. Coughing and spitting, threatening to spread COVID-19 to my colleagues is a disgusting act and must not be tolerated on any level.

“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 in incidents against the Metropolitan and Blackburn Police, respectively.

John continued: “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.”