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Coronavirus: At least 10 Norfolk police officers coughed at or spat in face

PUBLISHED: 11:25 28 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:22 29 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.

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Norfolk Police Federation has hit out at the “awful and abhorrent” practice of offenders coughing and spitting at police officers during the coronavirus pandemic.

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

An estimated 10 Norfolk officers have been spat at or coughed at by people claiming to be carrying Covid-19 since the outbreak began, according to Andy Symonds, Norfolk’s Police Federation chairman.

He said: “Since late February we have had around 10 of these, on top of other assaults. Threats or actual coughing at officers or officers being spat at. It is awful, abhorrent and another stressor on police officers’ work. They are sadly working in an era where they know it’s not if, it’s when they are assaulted. And now they face this extra pressure and strain.

“Their other halves are seeing them off to their shifts and worrying that they could bring coronavirus back into their homes. It is important to understand that not only are they worrying about being attacked as they go about their daily duty, protecting the public, there is now the added fear that they could bring a life-threatening disease back to their family.”

Earlier this month Mr Symonds described as “shocking” any attempt to “weaponise” coronavirus by coughing at police on duty.

It followed a case involving Norwich woman Joanne Turner, 35, who was jailed for 12 weeks after claiming she had coronavirus before coughing in an officer’s face

Mr Symonds said the federation has fought hard for adequate PPE, and representatives have been lobbying MPs under the #ProtectTheProtectors banner.

He has recently had an online meeting with Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, who he said was sympathetic and interested in the cause. Mr Symonds added: “We are contacting MPs so we can import to them the pressures our members are working under. And we are encouraging magistrates and judges to use their sentencing powers to send out the strong signal that this behaviour will never be tolerated and that if you spit on or cough at a police officer you will be sent to prison. Community sentences are inadequate. We have nurses and medical practitioners who are being coughed and spat at and we don’t want these people in the community. Only a custodial sentence will do as far as we are concerned.”


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