Several assaults can be “attributed to behaviour linked to coronavirus”
Bedfordshire Police has today (30 April 2020) reported a 32 per cent year-to-date increase in assaults on police officers. Thirty-seven assaults have been recorded in April already.
The Force said that seven of these recent assaults can be attributed to behaviour linked to coronavirus. Since the start of the lockdown 43 incidents have been reported, as officers work around the clock to keep the county safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between January and March last year, 58 assaults were recorded, compared to 74 in the same period of 2020 alone. This is a rise of almost a third.
Earlier this month, a man was charged with assaulting officers by allegedly coughing in their faces, and is due before court in May. The force also secured 20 weeks’ jail time for another man for spitting at frontline NHS workers. Both incidents were captured as relating directly to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Superintendent Jaki Whittred said:
“Our officers do an extraordinary job on a daily basis, and we need to ensure they are as safe as possible when carry out their duties, committing to giving them the support they need and following through with the consequences for those who assault emergency service workers.
“In accordance with Maggie’s Law, named after the daughter of officer Jon Henry, who was killed in the line of duty in 2007, every officer who suffers an assault is personally contacted by a member of the Force Executive, and in every case, a Chief Officer statement is provided to the court in support of that officer, urging a firm stance is taken with anyone who assaults police personnel.
“This is particularly pertinent in policing coronavirus regulations, as officers are literally putting their lives at risk, interacting with members of the public, encouraging people to adhere to the rules which are there for their own safety.”
Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, who lobbies for stronger penalties for assaults front line workers, said:
“The recent change in the law doubled the maximum potential penalty to a full year for an assault on an officer in the execution of their duty, and I would like to encourage our courts to make sure that the full penalty is imposed as a deterrent as this disgusting behaviour must stop, and stop now.
“I’m absolutely horrified that some people have taken advantage of the current emergency to assault police officers and, in particular, to spit or cough on them to expose them to the risk of infection.”
Chairman of the Bedfordshire Police Federation, Stephen Bozward, said:
“Assaults can also have a long lasting effect on an officer’s emotional and physical wellbeing and the Police Federation works hard to support officers who have been attacked.
“Thankfully legislation has changed in recent years and has recognised that assaults on police officers are serious offences; something the Police Federation has been fighting for.”