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313 prosecutions for assaults on emergency workers completed in first month of lockdown

|News, Violent crime

More than 300 prosecutions for assaults on emergency workers were completed in the first month of lockdown, CPS data reveals.

The 313 attacks followed a typical pattern of police officers and other emergency workers being coughed at and spat on by members of the public claiming to have the virus.

Shop workers were also among the victims of 62 separate common assault prosecutions completed over the same period.

On 26 March, the Director of Public Prosecutions intervened to warn that anyone coughing and spitting at emergency workers while claiming to have COVID-19 faces assault charges.

Max Hill QC said today: “It is disgraceful that hard-working essential workers continue to be abused during a health emergency and I have warned repeatedly that anyone doing so faces serious criminal charges.

“Offences which relate to coronavirus, including assaults on emergency workers, are being treated among the highest priority for charging decisions during the pandemic.

“I am pleased to see our strong stance reflected in this data, with hundreds of convictions recorded in the first month alone.

“All other crimes where there is a coronavirus element are also being captured by prosecutors so these can be treated as aggravating features in court.”

The CPS has introduced a specific ‘COVID-19 monitoring flag’ on its internal database so it can capture this element of the offending on existing crimes not necessarily covered by the new Coronavirus Act and Health Protection Regulations.

The ‘coronavirus element’, which will be flagged as an aggravating feature of the case, may include:

  • Coughing or spitting on an emergency worker to ‘infect’ them;
  • An assault in a supermarket over perceived stockpiling;
  • Scams selling non-existent hand sanitiser or masks, or falsely informing individuals that they have been fined for leaving their home;
  • Abuse directed at an individual or group based on the presumption that their country of origin is responsible for COVID-19.

The data covers finalised prosecutions up to the end of April and also includes 142 offences of criminal damage, 99 public order offences and 44 offences of shoplifting.

In total, 424 defendants were charged with a coronavirus-related crime, with 97 per cent pleading guilty. However, the data does not include cases with a trial or sentencing outstanding.

Notes to editors

  • The coronavirus-flagged data covers completed prosecutions up to 30 April 2020 - i.e. where a case has ended in a conviction or been withdrawn - against 424 defendants for crimes including 313 assaults on emergency workers, 142 offences of criminal damage, 99 public order offences and 44 shoplifting offences
  • The conviction rate should be treated with caution as early guilty pleas are finalised at a much quicker pace than cases going to trial
  • The CPS does not hold data related to individual defendant outcomes or sentences
  • Official criminal justice outcome statistics are kept by the Ministry of Justice

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