We are currently experiencing network problems with the desktop version of Police Oracle. We hope to have these resolved as soon as possible.

Fed welcomes prison sentences for those weaponising COVID-19

Chair of the Police Federation, John Apter, has thanked the director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill QC, and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for prison sentences for those found guilty of assaulting an officer by spitting and coughing at them during the outbreak.

The CPS said on the 26 March that anyone using coronavirus to threaten emergency workers would face serious criminal charges, punishable by up to 12 months in prison.

Mr Apter’s comments come after multiple prison sentences have been handed out to those who have been using COVID-19 as a weapon against officers.

On Saturday 18 April, Michael Jones was jailed for nine months for spitting two Sussex officers. He was charged with two counts of assaulting an emergency worker and one count of assault and received 12 weeks for each offence to run consecutively.

Another man who claimed he had COVID-19 and spat at a Nottinghamshire Police officers at the end of March has been jailed for 12 months after admitting to two counts of assaulting an emergency worker. 

Mr Apter said: “During this difficult period seeing more offenders being jailed for this disgusting and dangerous act is very welcome.

“Coughing and spitting, threatening to spread COVID-19 to my colleagues is disgraceful and completely unacceptable and we must send out a strong message that this behaviour will not be tolerated by our society.

“Sadly, being spat at by vile individuals is nothing new for police officers. But to weaponise it and threaten to spread a deadly virus is a new low and must be met head on by the criminal justice system. There must be a consequence, and that consequence should be prison.”

The Federation said offenders are usually more like to receive a fine.

Mr Apter went on to say: “This is a good start and I am glad to see magistrates and judges taking this seriously. I urge them to continue to set an example so others will follow suit.

“I want to thank Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions at the Crown Prosecution Service for his support in putting this issue under the spotlight and the Sentencing Council for enhancing the guidance for those found guilty of this type of offence.”

He added: “For far too long those who have attacked my colleagues have often walked away from court with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. An assault on any emergency worker is an assault on society.

“I care about the victims whose voices are so often ignored; for this reason, I make no apology for wanting those responsible to spend time in prison.”

On announcing the intervention last month, Mr Hill said: “Emergency workers are more essential than ever as society comes together to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am therefore appalled by reports of police officers and other frontline workers being deliberately coughed at by people claiming to have Covid-19.

“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.”

However, the chair of the Sussex Police Federation Matt Webb has criticised the "failure of the courts" after a perpetrator avoided a jail sentence following an incident on Friday (17 April).

Officers arrested Trevor Dangerfield in St Leonards last week on suspicion of breaching the peace. Dangerfield then coughed in the face of an officer before claiming he had Covid-19 and "wanted to infect the officer and his family".

He was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an emergency worker and charged the next morning. He appeared at Brighton Magistrates' Court on Saturday and pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer.

Dangerfield was sentenced to a 16-week suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay £100 in compensation and a £156 victim surcharge.

Mr Webb said: “The failure of the courts to recognise the seriousness of this incident and pass an appropriate sentence is staggering.

“Officers have been placed in an impossible position of trying to uphold hastily drawn-up legislation designed to protect the public and the NHS, in addition to their day-to-day business. When they are attacked in this way for simply doing their job, and are not supported by the judicial system, it is a disgrace.

“What sort of message does this send to people like Dangerfield who make police officers fear for the fact that they may be infected with this virus, which has killed thousands of people in this country alone?"

Mr Webb added: “The Police Federation has been fighting for a long time to get assaults of this nature recognised as the serious offences that they are. An attack on a police officer is an attack on society.”

Leave a Comment
View Comments 4
In Other News
Man jailed for spitting blood at Greater Manchester officers
Spit hoods do not protect against COVID-19, says manufacturer
Patel pledges to toughen sentences further for officer assaults
Thames Valley fed condemn "despicable" assaults on officers
Assaulted officers to receive money from offenders' benefits in Scotland
Bedfordshire assaults up by a third
Forces ask courts to back up CPS on spitting and coughing offences
Specials will be allowed to join the Fed, Home Office confirms
New guidance on sentencing for assaults on officers
Six month jail sentence for man who coughed at Met officer
Deliberate coughing will be treated as an assault says CPS
More News