THE tough punishments handed out by the courts for people weaponising coronavirus against police officers should continue once the current crisis concludes.
That’s the message from Hampshire Police Federation Chairman Alex Charge, who has seen countless colleagues now coughed and spat at by criminals.
He said: “Officers are still going to crimes. They are still suffering assaults from members of the public. A lot of that has been through coughing and spitting, weaponising Covid-19.
“What is good is that we’ve seen a nice clear sign from the courts and from the public that when people spit at police officers or other emergency service workers they should go to prison. They’re caught, they’re convicted, they should go to prison.”
Alex said he hoped that once normal life resumed, it would remain the case that that people who assaulted emergency service workers would be tried and convicted.
He said: “It’s not right. It’s not an acceptable part of the job, so ultimately I would like this to be a new dawn: when you assault an emergency service worker you go to prison, because that gives a really clear message that if you do it there are consequences.”
He concluded: “Anyone who spits at or threatens COVID-19 infection to police officers needs to be sent to prison.
“There needs to be a clear message; if you behave like this, then you go to prison.”
Hampshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Scott Chilton agreed that people were ‘weaponising’ the virus.
He too wants to see jail terms handed down as a matter of course for those who assault officers in this way.
“In any situation, spitting is vile behaviour, but I am even more appalled and disgusted that it is now being used as a weapon by people in these extremely challenging times,” he said.
John Apter, Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “Nothing is worse than being spat at or coughed in the face by an individual who says they want to infect you and your family with the most contagious of viruses.
“I raised this with Home Secretary very early on in this crisis because we could see this behaviour start to unfold.”
He added: “What is adding insult to injury is the different approaches in how it is sometimes dealt with by courts.
“We still see inconsistencies around the country, I scratch my head when I see some sentences being given out which are so lenient. I’m gobsmacked by them.
“Some are being sent to prison, which is where they absolutely deserve to be, whilst others are let off with nothing more than a slap on wrist. This sends completely the wrong message.”