Martin Goldman, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West, reinforced his team's support for emergency workers across the region and warned those who commit such crimes that they will face prosecution.
A snapshot of recent cases shows that where the victims are police officers or NHS staff, prosecutors are making full use of the specific offence of assaulting an emergency worker, which carries a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison. Prosecutors are also bringing the aggravating features of spitting, coughing and threatening victims with coronavirus to the attention of the court so that this can be taken into account when sentencing.
Mr. Goldman said: "Anyone who deliberately coughs or spits at an emergency worker and threatens to infect them with COVID-19 should be left in no doubt that we are taking these cases extremely seriously. As recent cases before the courts show, we are prosecuting those who commit such crimes with assault, and offenders face up to 12 months in prison.
"Police officers, NHS staff and other emergency workers should be able to perform their vitally important roles without meeting such disgusting and potentially dangerous behaviour. We will not hesitate to prosecute those who put the safety of our 999 staff and the safety of the public at risk in this way."
The following is a snapshot of some of the cases which CPS North West has charged and prosecuted in the past few weeks:
Stuart Barwise, 35, was detained by police in Windermere town centre, Cumbria, on 23 April after reports that he was drunk and behaving aggressively. While he was being arrested he spat on the ground, and threatened the arresting officers that he would spit in their faces, that he had Coronavirus symptoms and hoped they would die of the virus. CPS North West prosecuted him for assault of an emergency worker and a public order offence. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison.
Jason Longstaff, 48, was jailed for four months for pulling down his facemask and spitting in the face of a security guard at Asda, Cherry Tree Road, Blackpool on 5 April after he was challenged for jumping the social distancing queue. He pleaded guilty at Preston Crown Court on 6 May.
Jamie McAdam was jailed for 13 months for spitting at a council security guard and at police officers on 27 March in Fallowfield whilst shouting he had coronavirus and hoped they'd die. In custody he damaged his cell with his own faeces and refused to be interviewed.
On 3 April three police officers attended an incident in Little Hulton, Manchester, following reports that Shaun Sleigh, 31, had caused criminal damage and was in possession of a knife. When police officers arrived at the house, Sleigh was verbally abusive to them, assaulted one of the officers by grabbing her head and hair and while he was being arrested he coughed over the other two officers and claimed he had coronavirus. CPS North West prosecuted him for three assaults of emergency workers. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a total of 36 weeks in prison.
On 10 April Colin Dandridge, 34, was arrested at the Asda store in Dane St, Rochdale. The defendant was asked to leave the store by a member of security staff and then coughed repeatedly in the security guard's face while claiming to have coronavirus. Outside the store he threatened to spit at the guard while repeating the claim that he had coronavirus. He was arrested by the police shortly afterwards. CPS North West prosecuted him for assault. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison.
Ryan Walker, 24, was arrested on 8 April in Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester City Centre after he had been warned numerous times to leave the city centre by police officers and had coughed in their direction while claiming to have coronavirus. He then later spat at one of the arresting officers and racially abused another officer. CPS North West prosecuted him for assaulting an emergency worker, racially aggravated public order and being drunk and disorderly. He pleaded guilty was sentenced to 24 weeks in prison.
Dale McNeil, 44, was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, a 12-week curfew and ordered to pay £100 compensation for spitting at a police officer who was assisting to transport him to hospital after he was found lying on the pavement in Stockport on 1 May. He pleaded guilty to common assault at Stockport Magistrates' Court on 4 May.