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Deliberate coughing will be treated as an assault says CPS

People claiming to have COVID-19 who deliberately cough over officers will be jailed, the CPS has warned.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it would use the assaults on emergency workers legislation on any offender who claimed to have the virus and then deliberately coughed over officers.

The Police Federation revealed it has asked the Home Secretary to consider further emergency legislation if there are further repeats of the three known incidents that have already taken place.

The CPS issued a statement on social media stating: “The CPS is appalled by reports of police and others being deliberately coughed at by people claiming to have coronavirus. This is not only vile but illegal and we will not hesitate to prosecute people for it.”

It highlighted two cases in Blackburn and London where charges had already been brought – and a third incident was revealed by the Police Federation. The CPS shared advice that deliberate coughing could be treated by arresting officers as common assault.

Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “Emergency workers are more essential than ever as society comes together to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

“Let me be very clear: this is a crime and needs to stop. The CPS stands behind emergency and essential workers and will not hesitate to prosecute anybody who threatens them as they go about their vital duties.”

The leader of frontline police officers revealed he had raised with the government the idea of further legislation if there were more incidents. 

Police Federation National Chair John Apter, said: “During this challenging period the announcement is welcome and timely. Reports of a vile minority using the virus as a weapon against police officers trying to keep them safe beggars belief.

“Coughing and spitting, threatening to spread COVID-19 to my colleagues is a disgusting act and must not be tolerated on any level. I have raised this serious issue of people using the virus as a weapon or to cause fear with the Home Secretary this week – suggesting there must be emergency legislation put into place if we see an increase of these kind of incidents.”

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