Commissioner condemns 'horrible' coronavirus cough attacks on police

The police commissioner for the region has condemned a surge in "horrible" incidents where people spit or cough deliberately at police officers.

West Mercia Police officers were coughed at by people who said they had Covid-19 a total of 23 times in the months from March 23 to July. 14 of those happened in April, including one in Shropshire and one in Telford & Wrekin.

Of the 23 incidents, 16 of them happened in the South Worcestershire policing area.

The force has also recorded attacks where officers are deliberately spat at – there were 29 incidents over the lockdown period, four of those in Shropshire and three in Telford & Wrekin. Today a woman was charged and remanded in custody after a police officer was spat at in Telford.

In North Worcestershire, it happened nine times while there were eight incidents in Herefordshire.

West Mercia's police and crime commissioner, John Campion, said that people "weaponising" coronavirus against officers caused them and their families added stress and anxiety.

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He said that assaults on emergency workers should be met with "the severest of consequences".

"My mission has always been to highlight assaults on emergency workers and to campaign for tougher sentencing for the perpetrators of these horrible crimes.

“The lockdown period, despite having an overall positive affect on reported 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 country were clapping every Thursday for emergency service workers, that some made the decision to weaponise Covid-19 in order to create stress and anxiety for officers and their families.

“I have made no secret of my support for increased sentencing for those that assault emergency service workers, and I will continue to champion this cause. It’s 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.”

Today marks the second anniversary of the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018, which saw maximum sentences for assaults double from six to 12 months in prison. A consultation to increase sentences further to a maximum of two years is currently underway.

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