politics

Prison sentences for coughing on police officers to be doubled, Home Secretary Priti Patel warns


PRISON sentences for people who cough on police officers will be doubled, the Home Secretary has warned.

Priti Patel said this morning she would be clamping down on anyone who assaulted key workers during the coronavirus crisis.

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 People who cough on police officers or assault emergency workers are facing two-year jail sentences
People who cough on police officers or assault emergency workers are facing two-year jail sentencesCredit: Getty Images – Getty
 Priti Patel announced the longer sentences in a crackdown on offenders
Priti Patel announced the longer sentences in a crackdown on offendersCredit: LBC

She told LBC: “I’m looking at (making sentences for coughing on police tougher) right now.

“We are doing more particularly on assaults on key workers and emergency workers. I’m looking to double sentences and we’re going to do that.”

Ms Patel added anyone who assaulted key workers would “feel the full force of the law and that’s rightly so.”

“We’ve seen some people being convicted and rightfully.”

The Crown Prosecution Service said in March coughing on key workers would be classed as assault and perpetrators could face up to 12 months in prison.

Ms Patel’s announcement means that could be extended to a two-year sentence.

There have been several horrifying incidents of people coughing on police officers – the latest was a 19-year-old who was jailed this week.

She told officers she was infected with coronavirus before coughing on them.

There have also been assaults on NHS staff from people trying to steal their identification to use it to nab discounts at stores across the nation for medical workers.

After the first string of charges against people who coughed on police and other emergency workers in March, Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC said he was “appalled” by the behaviour.

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He 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.”

More than 14,000 people have been fined under emergency coronavirus legislation to enforce social distancing.

But of the 231 cases of people hauled before the courts for coronavirus-related offences 56 people were wrongly charged.

Most were mistakenly prosecuted under the Coronavirus Act for people who are potentially infectious and should be self-isolating.

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