Covid Scotland: Police subject to spate of deliberate coughing and spitting to spread virus

Tougher sentences should be imposed on those who cough, sneeze or spit on police officers in a deliberate attempt to infect them with Covid-19 it has been claimed, after new figures revealed a spate of “disgusting and unpleasant” incidents.

Police Scotland officers have been coughed at and spat on by people trying to spread Covid.
Police Scotland officers have been coughed at and spat on by people trying to spread Covid.

Police Scotland said the 13 incidents, which happened between January and March this year, were “utterly deplorable and unacceptable” while the Scottish Police Federation said stiffer sentencing was required for those who assault officers and deliberately try to infect them with coronavirus.

The statistics were reported to members of the Scottish Police Authority at their June board meeting, and also show instances where police officers reported Covid-related incidents after having their masks dislodged during a struggle.

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According to a report in new justice and social affairs publication, 1919, Caroline Macnaughton, the SPF’s North Area deputy secretary, said: “It has been made clear by the chief constable of Police Scotland in his pledge that violence and abusive behaviour against police officers won’t be tolerated.

“But the courts don’t seem to have that view, and too often people convicted of such incidents don’t get the sentence they deserve.

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“These statistics show the act of coughing, sneezing and spitting on officers is being used by criminals in targeted assaults. The act is disgusting and unpleasant and has always carried the risk of spreading infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.

“However, with the pandemic, there is another new level of risk and that is something those who do it are well aware of.”

Last month a Perth man with multiple convictions had his sentence reduced on appeal after being convicted of spitting in a female police officer’s face, and it has also been reported a man in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian spat and coughed on officers as he was ejected from a house, with all officers being tested for coronavirus.

And in the Highlands it was reported that other frontline workers, including paramedics and prison officers, are being routinely spat on by those who know it is a main source of spreading the deadly virus.

Police Scotland deputy chief constable Fiona Taylor said: “Officers and staff stepped forward to help combat the spread of the virus, conducting in excess of 120,000 interactions with members of the public to explain rapidly changing guidance, encourage everyone to do the right thing and enforce the law where required.

“I am grateful to the vast majority of people who responded with remarkable co-operation and support for their police service.

“Officers and staff work with dedication and a commitment to helping people and violence and abuse against them is utterly deplorable and unacceptable. It is not simply part of the job and will not be tolerated.”

Scottish Labour’s Pauline McNeill said: "This is utterly despicable and dangerous behaviour.

“Time and time again throughout the pandemic our police service has kept the people of Scotland safe – they deserve to be kept safe at their work.”

Scottish Conservative’s justice spokesman Jamie Greene added: “It is abhorrent that any of our hardworking frontline officers have been targeted in this manner.

"Each of these perpetrators must be properly punished.

“Action must be taken to ensure officers are kept safe and that those guilty of this awful practice are properly punished."

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