Chair sickened at rise in assaults on emergency service workers

14 January 2021

A rise in attacks on emergency services workers driven by the threat of weaponising Covid-19 is “absolutely sickening”, says the chair of South Wales Police Federation.

Steve Treharne called for the full weight of the law to be used against offenders who cough or spit on frontline staff while claiming to be infected with the virus.

He was speaking after the release of new figures by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) which show a 10 per cent rise in assaults on emergency services personnel during November compared to the same period in 2019.

The NPCC said: “It is thought the rise may be driven by increases in common assaults on police constables, including suspects spitting on officers while claiming to be infected with Covid-19.”

Steve said: “I find it absolutely sickening that anyone would threaten to infect emergency services workers with this potentially deadly virus.

“To see a double digit rise in attacks is disheartening and they need to be stamped out now. Our members and colleagues in the other emergency services have been doing a fantastic job on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus to support the public.

“Now they need the support of the courts, who need to impose the toughest possible sentences on offenders who attack them in this way.”

Steve said latest Force figures for assaults also show a shocking increase in assaults, with the upward trend continuing.

South Wales Police recorded 799 officer for 2020. With Government statistic crossing the year, they showed there were 642 assaults on South Wales officers during 2019/20.

“Taking the quarterly statistics from April 2020, we are currently standing at 616 officer assaults, so whichever way they are looked at we are looking at another yearly increase,” he added.

John Apter, the national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), has also reacted to the latest NPCC figures.

He said: “I’m disgusted to see this appalling increase as Covid-19 continues to spread. These figures will include many police officers being spat at and coughed at by vile individuals who weaponise the virus, which threatens their health and that of their families.

“It’s disgustingly offensive that 999 workers, who are working so hard to protect the public throughout this crisis, are being attacked and assaulted in this way. People need to remember that these emergency workers are mums and dads, and sons and daughters who have families to go home to at the end of a shift.

“Those who commit these despicable offences must be harshly dealt with by the courts and face the full force of the law.”

The Federation, he said, would continue to lobby for an increase in the sentences given to those who assault emergency service workers through its ‘Protect The Protectors’ campaign.

“It is vital to ensure courts issue tougher sentences to those who assault emergency service workers. If you assault a police officer you should expect to spend time in prison, no ifs, no buts,” John added.

Other findings in the NPCC figures include:

  • Serious violent crime, including grievous bodily harm, actual bodily harm and personal robbery reduced by 20 per cent

  • Shoplifting was down 32 per cent

  • Vehicle crime fell by 22 per cent

  • Residential burglary was down by 23 per cent

  • In total, 32,329 fixed penalty notices have been recorded as having been issued in England and Wales under Coronavirus Regulations between Friday 27 March and Monday 21 December 2020.