Police record more than 100 coronavirus-related attacks

By Reevel Alderson
Home affairs correspondent, BBC Scotland

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Officers have been subjected to abusive behaviour including threats of deliberate transmission

Police in Scotland have recorded more than 100 coronavirus-related attacks and threats aimed at officers.

They included being spat at or deliberately coughed on.

The force described these incidents as "outrageous and disgraceful" and said they would result in automatic arrest.

But the Police Federation, which represents 98% of all officers, called for anyone accused of such attacks automatically to be held in custody before appearing in court.

In the first three weeks following the lock-down, (24 March-18 April) police recorded more than 100 crimes where officers or staff were the victim.

They included occasions where front-line officers and personnel from the custody suites have been subjected to abusive behaviour including threats of deliberate transmission.

Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said police officers and staff were playing a vital role to help make the changes and sacrifices needed to protect the NHS and save lives.

She said: "Those doing the right thing will agree these sorts of attacks on our officers and staff are outrageous and disgraceful.

"Abuse and assault is not simply part of the job for police officers and staff and will not be tolerated.

"The Chief Constable has made it clear that this completely unacceptable. The Lord Advocate has also confirmed that offenders will be dealt with robustly by Scotland's prosecution service.

"Threatening a member of Police Scotland personnel, or any other emergency service worker, while they are carrying out their duties to keep the public safe will result in immediate arrest."

Sheriffs supportive

She said where such cases had gone to court, sheriffs had been very supportive, and some offenders had been remanded in custody.

The Police Federation, which represents officers up to the rank of chief inspector, said offenders could be charged with common assault or culpable and reckless behaviour, but its general secretary, Calum Steele, called for prosecutors to do more.

He said: "It is astonishing even after all this time that there has been no direction from the Crown Office that anyone accused of such offences should be held in custody before they appear in court."

The Crown Office said guidelines agreed by the Lord Advocate and the chief constable had been published at the start of the lockdown.

Police decision

A spokesperson said: "Liberation is a decision for the police based upon the circumstances of the individual incident.

"The police can detain any person to protect the public from risk of harm, and spitting at someone and saying you have the virus would meet a reasonable description of putting someone at risk of harm."

He said there was a statutory obligation not to detain someone unnecessarily.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has thanked Scotland's communities for the high levels of co-operation shown during "this challenging period".

He said officers are engaging with the public, explaining the physical distancing requirements, encouraging people to comply with the law, and using enforcement only where necessary.

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