Emergency workers face daily coronavirus attacks, public prosecutions chief tells ITV News

Allegra Stratton

Former National Editor

Emergency workers are facing daily coronavirus related attacks, the Director of Public Prosecutions has told ITV News.

Max Hill QC said there have been dozens of reports of police, NHS workers and other frontline workers being deliberately coughed at and verbally attacked every day since the lockdown begun.

Coronavirus related crimes, where Covid-19 is used to threaten emergency and essential workers, is a worrying trend.

ITV News spoke to Amy Hall, 28, who described popping out between shifts to buy her mum flowers for mother's day, only to be spat at in a car park.

She said her attacker called her a "virus spreader".

  • Amy Hall was spat on when she bought her mother flowers

In Scotland, two nurses working in critical care at the Inverclyde Royal Hospital had just been fitted for new masks when they left the hospital to discover their cars had been keyed.

In Middlesborough, another nurse finished her shift to find her rear window smashed.

In Ramsgate, Kent, paramedics started their shift one morning only to realise six ambulances had had their tyres slashed.

Despite overall crime being down during the lockdown, the number of assaults against emergency and essential workers is up at the same level as it was before the lockdown began.

Since fewer people are out on the streets now, the DPP said this level is concerning.

Attacks on essential workers are not new, but it appears the coronavirus outbreak has worsened the problem.

  • Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC said emergency workers are facing daily attacks

Max Hill QC told ITV News: "Throughout the last year, 2019, we were prosecuting 50 assaults on emergency workers per day.

“We are still seeing, in 2020, in circumstances of national lockdown, the same frequency of assaults on emergency workers.

“So I am talking about dozens of examples everyday of spitting or coughing or assaulting emergency workers everyday."

Ruth May, the chief nursing officer for NHS England, told ITV News that she is becoming increasingly concerned about the safety of NHS employees.

There have been a spate of attacks against key workers since the outbreak of coronavirus.

Among those prosecuted for such crimes in the past three weeks were:

  • Bevan Burke, 22, was arrested on April 3 in Leicester for breaching the terms of his licence and in the process, coughed at police officers telling them he hoped they died from the virus. He has been sentenced to 42 weeks in prison for two counts of assaulting an emergency worker and assault by beating.

  • Scott Crook, 29, and Stewart Motley, 29, stole £32.91 from an Alzheimer’s charity box from a closed climbing centre in Leicester on Saturday April 4. Despite being pursued by police, Motley responded to the officer trying to arrest him by coughing directly in his face. Motley and Crook have been sentenced to a collective 44 weeks in prison as a result.

  • Wesley Upton, 26, was arrested for breaching a criminal order in Huntingdon on March 28. He spat at police telling them he was infected with coronavirus and hoped that everyone around him would be infected. Upton admitted his actions and was sentenced to six months in prison.

  • Daniel Shelvin will be sentenced on April 37 for punching a nurse at Salford Royal Hospital on March 29.

  • Marcin Chojna was jailed for 9 weeks at Luton Crown Court on April 2 after spitting at two NHS workers who had just finished their shift.

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