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‘Weaponising’ coronavirus by coughing at 999 staff ‘shocking’, says Police Federation chief

PUBLISHED: 13:19 02 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:19 02 April 2020

Andy Symonds, chair of the Norfolk Police Federation. PIC: Supplied by Andy Symonds.

Andy Symonds, chair of the Norfolk Police Federation. PIC: Supplied by Andy Symonds.

Archant

Any attempt to “weaponise” coronavirus by threatening to cough at police officers can never be tolerated by society.

Police patrol the supermarkets during the Coronavirus lockdown in Attleborough, making sure the public keep the 2m social distancing rule. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPolice patrol the supermarkets during the Coronavirus lockdown in Attleborough, making sure the public keep the 2m social distancing rule. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

That is the message from Andy Symonds, chair of the Norfolk Police Federation, which represents officers in the county after Joanne Turner, 35, was jailed for 12 weeks after claiming she had coronavirus before coughing in an officer’s face.

Police officers have been given new powers to help enforce a lockdown imposed by the government last month aimed at stopping the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Turner, of William Kett Close, Norwich, was one of the first in the country to be jailed after new powers were brought in and Mr Symonds said he hoped it would send out a strong mesage.

He said: “Officers are having to face great difficulties in policing in this testing period.

Norwich city centre during Coronavirus lockdown 31st March 2020. Police offier on street to ensure people follow lockdown. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANNorwich city centre during Coronavirus lockdown 31st March 2020. Police offier on street to ensure people follow lockdown. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

“Sadly officers get assaulted on an all too regular basis for just doing their job. In addition to this I’m aware of the case in which an officer was coughed at in the face by a women who made the threat to the officer that she had coronavirus.

“This is simply abhorrent and to weaponize the coronavirus in this way is completely shocking and can never ever be tolerated by us as a society.

“I’m pleased to see that the magistrates handed down a jail sentence of 12 weeks for this crime. This sends a strong deterrent message to anyone else thinking about doing anything of a similar nature towards a police officer or any of us.”

Turner kicked and damaged a car as it was parked outside Norwich Train Station at around 11pm on Wednesday, March 25.

Norwich city centre during Coronavirus lockdown 31st March 2020. Police officers walk the streets outside Council Building and Police headquaters Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANNorwich city centre during Coronavirus lockdown 31st March 2020. Police officers walk the streets outside Council Building and Police headquaters Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Following further enquiries, officers tracked Turner to a property in William Kett Close where she became abusive.

She then claimed she had coronavirus before coughing forcefully in one of the officer’s faces.

After she was jailed, Chief Superintendent Dave Marshall said: “Any abuse and threatening behaviour towards the emergency services is unacceptable at any time.

“This should act as a clear warning that there will be serious consequences for anyone who behaves in such a threatening way during this pandemic.”

Simon Bailey, chief constable at Norfolk police. Picture: ArchantSimon Bailey, chief constable at Norfolk police. Picture: Archant

Mr Symonds called on members of the public to respect the fact that officers were trying to keep others safe, despite their own concerns about the virus.

He said: “Many police officers are and will be in self-isolation or caring for family members who are themselves unwell. Most police officers do not have the option to work from home and they will be interacting with people with the virus, which then has the potential to reduce the numbers of available officers further.

“Officers have the same concerns and anxieties about their friends and loved ones. Some of our officers are in the high-risk category themselves or have family that are in the high risk categories.

“We are no different to anyone else during this crisis, we are human beings that happen to earn a living policing our community. Officers also have concerns and worries about risking their own health when coming into work every day.

“We’re thankful for the vast majority of our communities who have shown great support towards us.”

Mr Symonds said he has been in regular contact with the Chief Constable Simon Bailey, along with other senior officers about the need for personal protective equipment which was currently in short supply for police officers as it was for those working in ther NHS.

He said the chief constable was “doing all he can” to secure more PPE for officers and indicated that natonally, the police federation had been in touch with the government about the need for more protective equipment for officers and clearer guidance on new police powers.

“We’ve seen nationally some criticism from some in how different forces are interpreting the new laws the government recently passed in relation to the coronavirus lockdown.

“We need some understanding and leeway to get to grips with this new law which is in its infancy but at heart officers want to help and protect people in these challenging times.”


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