Lancashire police 'coughed on and spat at' during pandemic as attacks on officers reach four-year high
Officers were assaulted, spat at and coughed on as shocking new figures revealed that attacks on Lancashire Police have reached their highest in four years.
And the attacks on police in Lancashire hit the four-year peak during the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when social distancing was enforced to reduce the spread of the virus.
According to the most recent Home Office data, 804 attacks on police officers were recorded by Lancashire Constabulary between April 2020 and March 2021, compared with a lesser 614 the year before.
But the worrying latest figures from the police force show a similar 801 assaults against officers between July 31 2020 and the same date this year.
Lancashire Police have responded to the alarming figures by hitting back at the culprits attacking officers who 'routinely put themselves in harm's way' when serving the communities.
Assistant Chief Constable Sam Mackenzie, of Lancashire Police, told the Post: “It is unacceptable for anybody to be assaulted as they go about their work, but police officers and staff routinely put themselves in harm’s way as they serve our communities and protect the public, and violent attacks should not be seen as simply part of the job.
“In the 12 months from July 31, 2020, to July 31, 2021, we recorded 801 assaults with injury and 30 assaults without injury on Lancashire Police officers. There were 167 assaults on other emergency workers or persons assisting a constable.
“These incidents included officers being on the receiving end of violence, as well as being coughed on and spat at. It should not need pointing out, during a global pandemic, that this is dangerous and offensive.
“It is disgraceful that anybody would think assaulting emergency service workers is okay. These are the people who put themselves in danger day in, day out and are there for us when we need them most. They deserve our utmost respect and support.
“We hope this sends a message that anybody who assaults our staff will be dealt with robustly and proportionately, with prosecution always sought. More importantly, we will always support our officers and staff if they are assaulted.”
The number of assaults across England and Wales 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.
The reports of 804 attacks on Lancashire officers comes as a significant increase from the 614 reported the previous year, and the highest number since comparable figures began in 2017-18.
Of the attacks in 2020-21, 191 resulted in an injury to the officer, compared to 135 the previous year, while in 613 cases the officer escaped physically unhurt.
The figures reflect a jump in such attacks across England and Wales, where recorded assaults on officers increased 14 per cent during the pandemic period, to around 37,000.
The creation of “assault with injury on a constable” as a new category of crime five years ago has meant more assaults on officers are now recorded.
However, the Home Office said the figures are still likely to be underestimated because the categories showing an attack on an officer do not include more serious offences such as attempted murder.
And under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, the maximum prison sentence for common assault on an emergency worker, including a police officer, is 12 months.
John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation for England and Wales, said the data showed the "disgusting level of violence" faced by officers working throughout the pandemic.
He said: "More than 100 of my colleagues are assaulted every single day – that’s a staggering number and something society must not accept.
"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.
"This unjustified violence is a stain on society and needs to be dealt with robustly.”
The Home Office said it had provided funding to police forces in England and Wales for more than 7,000 Taser devices to help protect officers.
A spokesperson added: "Our brave police officers go to work every day to protect the public and being attacked should never be part of the job.
“Anyone who commits these despicable assaults should expect to face the full force of the law."