Emergency workers battling the coronavirus crisis are being spat at or coughed at daily by people who have or claim to have the deadly virus, the UK’s top prosecutor has said.
Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC said many had already been jailed for assault or for crimes that cash in on the COVID-19 pandemic
And he warned that others who commit such offences would be fast-tracked into court and risked prison.
Mr Hill said: “It is disappointing to see charges come in on a daily basis of hard-working police officers, NHS staff and other vital workers, being coughed or spat at, sometimes deliberately exposing them to the risk of infecting them with coronavirus.
“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.”
Mr Hill heads the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which has already warned that crimes related to coronavirus will be dealt with as a priority.
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Among those prosecuted for such crimes in the past three weeks were:
- Bevan Burke, 22, jailed for 42 weeks after coughing at police officers in Leicester and telling them he hoped they died from the virus. He admitted assault and theft.
- Wesley Upton, 26, spat at police while being arrested for a criminal order breach in Huntingdon. He said he had Covid-19 and hoped everyone around him would become infected. He was jailed for six months for assault and harassment offences.
- Patrick Delaney, 47, spat at employees in a Lidl supermarket in Warrington and then spat on police who arrested him. He was jailed for 22 weeks for assault.
- Ashaq Sattar, 40, knocked on the doors of elderly and vulnerable people in Kirklees, claiming he was an NHS volunteer and would collect their medicine for a small fee. He admitted fraud and was sentenced to 52 weeks in prison.
- Scott Crook and Stewart Motley, both 29, stole cash from a charity box at a closed climbing centre in Leicester. Pursued by police, Motley coughed directly in an officer’s face. Motley and Crook were jailed for a total 44 weeks jail.
- Steven Mackie, 53, kept approaching people in a Tesco queue at Stalybridge. Police took him home, but he returned to the shop 15 minutes later and was causing a nuisance. Mackie was fined £500 for breaching the new restrictions on movement.
- Tony Brash, 33, purposely coughed on six police officers who were arresting him for being abusive to a shopkeeper. He admitted assaulting an emergency worker and was given a 12-week suspended prison sentence.
- Kierran Stevenson, 32, said on social media that he was going to go walk around a hospital in Aylesbury to see the extent of the coronavirus pandemic for himself. He then posted photos on Facebook at the hospital and images of hospital corridors, commenting that staff were not taking safety measures seriously. He was jailed for 12 weeks.