Tougher sentences needed for those who weaponise Covid


PUBLISHED 22 Jan 2021

IN News

Cambridgeshire Police Federation chair Liz Groom is calling for offenders who attack emergency workers to face tougher sentences.

Liz was speaking as new figures released by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) show that assaults on emergency workers are the most common coronavirus-related crime.

The statistics showed that following last spring’s lockdown, in the period between 1 April and 30 September 1,688 out of 6,500 offences were classed by the CPS as assaults on emergency workers.

Liz said: “These figures are shocking, but not really a surprise to officers who are on the frontline of policing the pandemic.

“We’re seeing attacks on workers across the emergency services increasing and, in many cases, the threat of Covid-19 is being used by people deliberately weaponising the virus by coughing and spitting on officers.

“It’s appalling and will not be tolerated. I hope that these thugs feel the full weight of the law to send out the message that this is unacceptable.”

Her message was echoed by the John Apter, chair of the national Police Federation. He said: “This stark increase in coronavirus-related crime may shock decent members of society but will not come as any real surprise to colleagues.

“Police officers on the frontline are increasingly facing abuse from a small minority who think nothing of deliberately weaponising the virus, and these people are the lowest of the low.

“The frustration we have in dealing with these individuals involves sentencing, as it’s inconsistent and often leaves victims feeling completely let down by the criminal justice system.

“Those who commit these attacks must spend time in prison, as without this there is no deterrent and emergency workers will continue to feel let down by the criminal justice system. 

“We have recently seen examples of Covid being transmitted to colleagues through these attacks. When someone knowingly has the virus or believes they have it and then wilfully coughs or spits at a police officer, we need the CPS to consider a much more serious charge than the ‘Assaults on emergency workers’ category. Without this, these types of attacks will continue to rise.”

The CPS has introduced a ‘coronavirus flag’ on its case management system to highlight criminality related to the pandemic as an aggravating feature at sentencing. This can include coughing and spitting while threatening to infect another person with the virus.

Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “Our guiding principle throughout has always been to support the police in ensuring the right person in charged with the right offence.

“Particularly appalling is the high number of assaults on emergency workers still taking place and I will continue to do everything in my power to protect those who so selflessly keep us safe during this crisis.”