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300-plus prosecutions for assaults on emergency workers completed in first month of lockdown

08 July 2020

MORE THAN 300 prosecutions for assaults on emergency workers were completed in the first month of lockdown, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) data reveals. The 313 attacks followed a typical pattern of police officers and other emergency workers being coughed at and spat on by members of the public claiming to have the Coronavirus.

Shop workers were also among the victims of 62 separate common assault prosecutions completed over the same period.

On 26 March, Max Hill QC (the Director of Public Prosecutions) intervened to warn that anyone coughing and spitting at emergency workers while claiming to have COVID-19 will face assault charges.

Hill said: “It is disgraceful that hard-working essential workers continue to be abused during a health emergency and I have warned repeatedly that anyone engaging in this kind of activity faces serious criminal charges. Offences which relate to the Coronavirus, including assaults on emergency workers, are being treated among the highest priority for charging decisions during the pandemic. I am pleased to see our strong stance reflected in this data, with hundreds of convictions recorded in the first month alone.”

He added: “All other crimes where there is a Coronavirus element are also being captured by prosecutors so these can be treated as aggravating features in court.”

Monitoring flag

The CPS has introduced a specific ‘COVID-19 monitoring flag’ on its internal database such that it can capture this element of the offending on existing crimes not necessarily covered by the new Coronavirus Act and Health Protection Regulations.

The ‘Coronavirus element’, which will be flagged as an aggravating feature of a given case, may include:

*Coughing or spitting on an emergency worker to ‘infect’ them

*An assault in a supermarket over perceived stockpiling

*Scams involving the sale of non-existent hand sanitiser or masks, or falsely informing individuals that they have been fined for leaving their home

*Abuse directed at an individual or group based on the presumption that their country of origin is responsible for COVID-19

Finalised prosecutions

The data covers finalised prosecutions up to the end of April and also encompasses 142 offences of criminal damage, 99 public order offences and 44 offences of shoplifting.

In total, 424 defendants were charged with a Coronavirus-related crime, with 97% of them pleading guilty. However, the data does not include cases with a trial or sentencing outstanding.