Rise in assaults on police during first three months of lockdown

7 September 2020, 13:37 | Updated: 7 September 2020, 13:41

Police forces have reported a rise in attacks in the first months of lockdown
Police forces have reported a rise in attacks in the first months of lockdown. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Police forces across the UK saw a 21 per cent increase in assaults against officers over the first three months of lockdown.

Sampling 31 forces, an analysis by the PA news agency found there were at least 7,863 assaults recorded during the lockdown, up from 6,505 for the same period in 2019.

The largest increase was in Leicestershire, where the police recorded an increase of 102 per cent, with 205 cases of assault against police recorded during lockdown, compared with 101 the previous year.

Leicestershire Police's Chief Constable Simon Cole said these figures included a "particularly distasteful trend" of offenders spitting and coughing on officers and threatening to infect them with coronavirus.

The force recorded 38 instances of offenders spitting at officers during the first three months of lockdown, almost double the 20 reported cases last year.

Coughing also entered into the offence records for the first time, with 10 reported coughing related assaults.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council are calling for all who spit at police to be forced to give a blood sample to test for disease and for spit guards to be issued to all officers if supported by local risk assessments.

Mr Cole said forces were working together to attempt to safeguard their officers against assault, and all his officers were equipped with body-worn cameras to record any incidents as court evidence.

"The rise in assaults has huge impacts on staff both physically and mentally, and it has a huge impact on communities,” he said.

"Thousands and thousands of days of policing are lost because of these assaults."

The new figures focusing on the lockdown period come on the back of a recent study involving 40,000 police officers and staff.

In this research 88 per cent of officers said they had been assaulted during their career, with 39 per cent experiencing an attack in the past year.

The maximum sentence for assaulting an emergency worker was doubled to 12 months in 2018, under measures introduced by then Justice Minister Rory Stewart.

In July the government launched a consultation on doubling the maximum sentence again, to two years in prison, referencing the dedication emergency workers had shown during the pandemic.

These plans would be a great step for LBC’s Nick Ferrari, who launched a Guard Our Emergency Medical Services campaign after discovering there were over 193 assaults on doctors, nurses and paramedics every day in England.

The Ministry of Justice said that more than 11,000 people were prosecuted for assaulting an emergency worker in 2019.

Assaults cover acts including being pushed, shoved or spat at, but prosecutions can take place under more serious offences when an emergency worker is seriously injured.