Ministers promise action on spitting after Ipswich MP raises police worries

PUBLISHED: 16:30 28 April 2020

Tom Hunt asked his question from his Westminster office. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Tom Hunt asked his question from his Westminster office. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS


Government ministers have promised Ipswich MP Tom Hunt that the full force of the law will come down on anyone who spits or coughs at police after he raised concerns about it in parliament.

Attorney General Suella Braverman said: “Those on the front line, those in the trenches of this battle – who risk their own safety in the service of others – are the heroes of this crisis and they deserve nothing less than our admiration and this is why assaults on emergency workers will not be tolerated.

“Those who commit these sickening offences will face the full force of the law and I am glad to have seen that the CPS has successfully prosecuted several such offences recently.”

Mr Hunt had raised the issue of attacks on police after reports of two assaults over the weekend. During his question which was asked from his office in Westminster, he said: “Those who spit and cough at police officers must have their day in court and that day must come quickly”.

The question followed the public condemnation of this sort of crime by the Suffolk Chief Constable Steve Jupp who has said his officers encounter these “appalling” cases regularly.

Following his question Mr Hunt said: “The sickening trend we’ve seen around the country of people using Covid-19 as a weapon against emergency workers is entirely unacceptable. I have expressed my deep disgust at those who cough and spit on police officers repeatedly now and I will not stop until it’s clamped down upon and those found guilty are behind bars.”

He had also raised the issue last week in a written question to the Justice Minister Chris Philp. He replied: “It is vital that offenders using coronavirus to threaten others during this pandemic face the full force of the law.

“Such behaviour is an assault and where this is directed at an emergency worker we have recently doubled the maximum penalty for assault from six to 12 months’ imprisonment. We have already seen significant sentences imposed on those using coronavirus as a threat.”

More on the coronavirus crisis

Mr Hunt added:“I’m glad to see that the Government has taken a clear position on punishing those who use Covid-19 as a weapon, including by doubling the maximum penalty for assault against the emergency workers who are doing so much to keep us safe during this pandemic. I also welcome that the guidance is in place so Courts can treat using Covid-19 as a weapon in assaults as an aggravating factor in sentencing.

“Transmission of Covid-19 can do immense damage to the victim and potentially their family as well. And if a police officer has to self-isolate because of such an assault, the wider public becomes less safe too. I’ll continue to be in close contact with the police and the Government on this issue moving forwards.

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