Calls for tougher sentences for attacks on emergency workers and using Covid as weapon

A police federation boss has joined calls for tougher sentences for offenders who attack emergency services workers.

West Mercia Police Federation chairperson Sarah Cooper said she was sickened by the number of assaults on frontline staff during the pandemic, including the threat of coronavirus being used as a weapon.

New figures released by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) show such assaults were the most common Covid-related crime being reported.

In West Mercia, which covers areas including Shropshire and Wyre Forest, 17 police officers were assaulted over Christmas and New Year, with injuries including a fractured finger, sprains, bruises, scratches and bites.

While 151 attacks which included deliberate coughing, spitting or biting were recorded between February and November last year.

She said: “The increasing numbers of attacks on the very people who’ve been keeping the public safe during the pandemic is horrifying.

“And it’s sickening that offenders would risk the health of emergency workers and their loved ones by weaponising this potentially deadly virus.

“We need the courts to pass the toughest possible sentences for attacks on emergency services workers, because it can’t be accepted that being assaulted is part of the job.

“We need the criminal justice system to support our members and their colleagues in the other emergency services by sending the message this won’t be tolerated.”

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

National chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, John Apter, said: “Being spat and coughed at, in the middle of a pandemic which has taken so many lives, is disgusting, dangerous and inhumane.

"In some cases, individuals who commit these offences are even saying they have the virus and hope the officer catches it then dies.

Shock

“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.

“We have recently seen examples of Covid being transmitted to colleagues through these attacks."

Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC 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.”

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