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Crown Prosecution Service brings Coronavirus criminals to justice

16 April 2020

A NUMBER of people who have spat or coughed at emergency workers, or exploited the Coronavirus pandemic for their own gain, have been charged and prosecuted. Max Hill QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has asserted that anyone using the Coronavirus outbreak as an excuse to threaten emergency and essential workers would face criminal charges. A snapshot of the recent cases the CPS has charged and prosecuted supports that assertion.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has provided a sample of some of the cases which the organisation has charged and prosecuted recently for people spitting at or coughing on essential workers, claiming that they have Coronavirus. These cases are as follows:

  • Bevan Burke, 22, was arrested on 3 April in Leicester for breaching the terms of his licence and, in the process, coughed at police officers telling them he hoped they died from the virus. Burke has been sentenced to 42 weeks in prison for two counts of assaulting an emergency worker and assault by beating
  • On Friday 3 April in Newton Aycliffe, Tony Brash,33, purposely coughed on six police officers who were processing his arrest for an earlier incident when he was abusive toards a shopkeeper. Brash pleaded guilty to assaulting an emergency worker and was given a 12-week suspended sentence
  • Scott Crook, 29, and Stewart Motley, 29, stole £32.91 from an Alzheimer’s charity box in a closed climbing centre in Leicester on Saturday 4 April. Despite being pursued by police officers, Motley responded to the officer trying to arrest him by coughing directly in his face. Motley and Crook have been sentenced to a collective 44 weeks in prison as a result of this episode
  • On 28 March when Wesley Upton, 26, was arrested for breaching a criminal order in Huntingdon, he spat at police officers telling them he was infected with Coronavirus and hoped that everyone around him would be infected. Upton admitted his actions and was sentenced to six months in prison
  • Patrick Delaney, 47, spat at employees in a Lidl store in Warrington before spitting on police officers who responded to the incident which took place on 30 March. Delaney pleaded guilty to the assault and has been jailed for 22 weeks

As well as these horrific cases of people putting essential workers at risk by coughing or spitting at them, the CPS has seen a number of defendants charged in relation to other offences exploiting the Coronavirus.

Exploitation for gain

Despite many people following the clear instructions given by the Government that citizens should only leave their houses for essential trips to the supermarket, etc, a few individuals are using the current pandemic to commit criminal offences and put others at risk. Here are some examples cited by the CPS:

  • Ashaq Sattar, 40, knocked on the doors of elderly and vulnerable people in Kirklees, pretending that he was an NHS volunteer and that he would collect their medicine for a small fee. He pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud and was sentenced to 52 weeks in prison
  • On 28 March, Steven Mackie, 53, kept approaching people stood in a queue to access a Tesco store in Stalybridge. Despite police taking him home, 15 minutes later he returned to the same store and caused a nuisance. Mackie was given a £500 fine for breaching the restrictions on movement
  • Jason Harewood, 27, pleaded guilty to contravening the requirement as to the restriction of movement during the emergency period, and also drug-related offences, after he was caught distributing drugs in Islington on Friday 3 April with no reason to be outside
  • Kierran Stevenson, 32, was given a 12-week prison sentence after he posted on social media that he was going to go and walk around a hospital in Aylesbury to see the extent of the Coronavirus pandemic for himself. He then posted photos on Facebook of the hospital and images of hospital corridors on 30 March, and commented that staff were not taking safety measures seriously

Max Hill QC observed: “Although this is only a small sample of the cases that we've prosecuted over the last week, it clearly demonstrates the number of people who are determined to break the law in these most critical of times. It's disappointing to see charges involving hard-working police officers, NHS staff and other vital workers who have been coughed on or spat at, sometimes deliberately exposing them to the risk of infecting them with Coronavirus.”

Hill continued: “We take these offences immensely seriously and want to make it absolutely clear that, where there is evidence to do so, people will be prosecuted and can face up to one year in prison. We recently launched our interim charging protocol where we set out that any offending related to coronavirus will be treated as the highest priority. We will not hesitate to bring offenders to justice.”