Stiffer sentence plea as police face rising assaults during pandemic

Officers serving in the West Mercia and Dyfed-Powys police forces have faced more than 300 coronavirus-related attacks - renewing calls for tougher punishment for offenders.

New figures show that officers in the West Mercia force which covers areas including Shropshire and Wyre Forest recorded 151 attacks which included deliberate coughing, spitting or biting between February and November last year.

During the same period in the previous year there were 125 reported incidents.

In addition to increasing assaults the service has been dealing with Covid-19 with its own data showing that 78 officers tested positive up to the beginning of December.

Overall attacks against officers in the same force have increased with 538 recorded from February to November last year, up from 510 in the same period in 2019. In July there were 80.

The Police Federation of England and Wales say the attacks showed that society had become more violent and needed to face up to changed attitudes.

Dyfed-Powys Police which serves Mid-Wales recorded 238 attacks on officers from February to November last year, mirroring the number of incidents recorded in the same period in 2019. The highest number was recorded in April 2020 when there were 36.

Officers also reported 19 positive Covid-19 tests up to December.

Message

West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion said: “ I have made no secret of my support for increased sentencing for the perpetrators of these horrible crimes.

"I will continue to champion this cause, as it is only then that we will send a clear message that assaults on those that serve to protect society will be met with the severest of consequences.

“The lockdown period, despite seeing an overall reduction in crime, saw an increase in officer assaults and, in particular, assaults where people were claiming to have Covid-19.

"It is saddening that, at a time when the vast majority of the country is showing support for our emergency service workers, that some have made the decision to weaponise the disease in order to create stress and anxiety for officers and their families.”

National chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, John Apter, said: “Those who attack emergency workers have a complete lack of respect for anything or anybody. Without doubt, we are living in a more violent society which needs to take a long hard look at itself."

"We need officers to have the very best protection, and there must be a strong deterrent – that deterrent should be time in prison, no ifs, no buts," Mr Apter added.

In September the government announced plans to double the maximum jail term for assaults on emergency workers to two years.

Firefighters, prison officers and NHS staff are also classed as emergency workers.

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