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Six month jail sentence for man who coughed at Met officer

A man who coughed at a Metropolitan Police officer after claiming he had Covid-19 has been jailed for six months, the first sentence in London for a coronavirus-related officer assault.

Adam Lewis, 55, was sentenced at Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday (1 April) after being convicted of an assault on an emergency worker.

The officer had been out on cycle patrol in Westminster around 3:40pm on Tuesday 31 March and had been alerted to the fact that a man had been attempting to steal car doors by another member of the public.

The officer approached Mr Lewis and attempted to detain him for a search. Mr Lewis resisted and verbally threatened the officer, saying: “I am Covid and I am going to cough in your face and you will get it.”

He then coughed at the officers who was trying to keep him at arm’s length and then fell to the floor.

The officer bent down to restrain him and Mr Lewis attempted to cough up phlegm before trying to spit in his face.

He also told the officer he had a “bad disease” that he was going to give to him and then threatened to bite the officer.

Mr Lewis was arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and taken into custody.

Met Chief Superintendent Helen Harper said: "My officers are doing everything they can to keep the public safe and police to the very best of their abilities - and we appreciate that the vast majority of people are making every effort to comply with the measures the Government has introduced.

"While these type of assaults are thankfully a rare occurrence, this incident was horrendous and if we do encounter this type of unacceptable behaviour we will be robust in our response.

"I hope the sentence today conveys a strong message that it will not be tolerated."

Ken Marsh, chair of the Met Police Federation, said: “It is abhorrent to behave in this way and I would like the most severe sentencing available to be used at all time. 

“My colleagues are on the frontline and they’re doing their best to try to keep people self-isolating and staying away from each other and if people want to behave like this they should get the full force of the law used against them.”

Mr Marsh went on to say: “We haven’t even begun to understand the mental health issues that are going with this, because it’s the worry of taking it to your wife, children, partner – it’s just unbelievable. It’s horrific.”

On Saturday (28 March) Essex Police officers had Covid-19 used against them as a weapon at two separate incidents.

Three officers were kicked, coughed and spat at while responding to reports of an assault on a Tesco worker in Leigh-on-Sea.

More were coughed at and bitten while making an arrest in Ongar the same day.

Essex Assistant Chief Constable Paul Wells said: "Unbelievably, this weekend we have seen suspects using the Covid-19 virus as a weapon against officers - who, in these incredibly challenging times, continue in their duty to keep the community safe.

"In just a 12-hour period, we had officers who had been kicked, spat and coughed at after responding to emergency calls from shop workers, who were also just doing their job."

Sergeant Stephen Taylor, Essex Police Federation chairman, said: "Our role is to help people and keep them safe and there are simply no excuses for assaulting officers.

"To be spat and coughed at during these unprecedented times is not acceptable."

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