Persons who deliberately cough in public towards other key workers or members of the public could be charged as common assault, the Crown Prosecution has said.
Criminals who deliberately cough at police officers while claiming to have coronavirus could face up to two years in jail, the country’s top prosecutor has warned.
Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), spoke out following a string of threats linked to the deadly virus amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said assaults against emergency workers were punishable by up to two years in prison, while coughs directed as a threat towards other key workers or members of the public could be charged as common assault.
Mr Hill said: “Emergency workers are more essential than ever as society comes together to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am therefore appalled by reports of police officers and other frontline workers being deliberately coughed at by people claiming to have Covid-19.
“Let me be very clear: this is a crime and needs to stop. The CPS stands behind emergency and essential workers and will not hesitate to prosecute anybody who threatens them as they go about their vital duties.”
John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, welcomed Mr Hill’s intervention but said emergency laws must be put in place if the attacks increase.
“Reports of a vile minority using the virus as a weapon against police officers trying to keep them safe beggars belief,” he said.
“Coughing and spitting, threatening to spread Covid-19 to my colleagues is a disgusting act and must not be tolerated on any level.
“I have raised this serious issue of people using the virus as a weapon or to cause fear with the Home Secretary this week – suggesting there must be emergency legislation put into place if we see an increase of these kinds of incidents.”
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