Norfolk police officers attacked 600 times during pandemic

PC Sam Smerdon, a beat manager for Norwich East Police, and Sgt Chris Clay, area sergeant for Norwic

PC Sam Smerdon and Sgt Chris Clay on patrol in Norwich city centre during pandmeic. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Police officers in Norfolk have been attacked more than 600 times during the coronavirus pandemic, figures reveal.

The number of assaults has been described as "disgusting" by the Police Federation, which says many offences involved spitting and coughing during a time of fear over the spread of Covid-19.

Home Office data shows 616 attacks on police officers were recorded by Norfolk Constabulary between April 2020 and March 2021.

One hundred and four resulted in an injury to the officer, compared to 128 the previous year, while in 512 cases the officer escaped physically unhurt.

Police give out fines to people in Wells for not following coronavirus lockdown rules. Picture: Arch

Police give out fines to people in Wells for not following coronavirus lockdown rules. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Andy Symonds, chairman of Norfolk Police Federation, said officers were doing an “immensely difficult job” but were being assaulted on a regular basis and sometimes seriously.

“Is it any wonder why police officers are stressed, beaten, exhausted and fed up with being treated as punch bags?" he said.

“Many of the offenders found guilty of these attacks never end up in prison. But the ripple effect of their violent attacks on my colleagues lasts well beyond that moment when they were attacked, sometimes years after.”

Injuries suffered by Inspector Laura Symonds following attack by Shannon Lovelock. Picture: Norfolk

Injuries suffered by Inspector Laura Symonds following attack by Shannon Lovelock.  - Credit: Norfolk Constabulary.

Last September Norwich man Shannon Lovelock was jailed for four years following a shocking attack on three officers, including Inspector Laura Symonds, who suffered a fractured eye socket and broken nose in the incident.

“We have worked hard lobbying the government under the banner of ‘Protect The Protectors’ and have managed to move things along in terms of a new law and an increased sentence for those that attack my colleagues,” said Mr Symonds. 

Andy Symonds, chairman of Norfolk Police Federation.

Andy Symonds, chairman of Norfolk Police Federation. - Credit: MartisMedia

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“This has not had the impact that it should have and therefore I’m pleased to see that new legislation is planned to increase these sentences further."

The Norfolk figures are down on the 659 assaults reported the previous year but the Covid pandemic meant officers enforcing lockdown restrictions faced additional challenges

John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation, said: "Many of these recorded attacks involve vile individuals who have spat on or coughed at police officers, weaponising the virus and threatening to spread it to them and their families."

Protester is arrested by police during a demonstration in Norwich against coronavirus restrictions f

Protester is arrested by police during a demonstration in Norwich against coronavirus restrictions. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Norfolk assistant chief constable Nick Davison said: “It is completely unacceptable to assault a person who is simply going out to do their job and do their best to serve the community.

"Fortunately the majority of these incidents do not end in serious injury; however, it will not be tolerated and as a force we will continue to work towards reducing the amount of physical attacks officers have to face whilst out on patrol in the county.”

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