North Wales police officer who was coughed on and threatened with coronavirus says experience left him anxious for family’s health
A North Wales police officer who was deliberately coughed on and threatened with COVID-19 has told how the experience left him anxious for the health of his family.
Experienced PC Rob Jones, whose assailant was jailed after deliberately weaponising the virus, called the incident ‘petrifying’ and revealed his colleagues are fearful of daily spitting and coughing attacks which might infect them with the virus.
The officer, who has 16 years’ service with the force and is based in Colwyn Bay as part of a response team, spoke out after a man was sentenced to 26 weeks at Mold Crown Court and convicted of assaulting him.
North Wales Police Federation Rep Rob said the shocking experience was one every colleague feared in the current climate.
He said: “We did everything by the textbook, but it still did not prevent this individual from coughing deliberately in my face.
“He was being detained in the back of a vehicle when he repeatedly started shouting: ‘I’m going to spit in your face.’ We intended to use a spit guard to protect us, but when we opened the door to take him into custody, he went straight for me.
“It all happened so quickly, and he deliberately coughed within a few inches of my face. I could even feel the warm air from his mouth, and it was horrifying.”
Following the attack, the officer’s first thoughts turned immediately to his close family.
He said: “I have vulnerable individuals around me at home, but I’ll only qualify for COVID-19 testing if I display symptoms. It’s a constant worry, and one which is in the mind of every single police officer in the nation as the number of similar attacks increases.”
North Wales Police Federation General Secretary Mark Jones welcomed the jail sentence but warned the incident was representative of a growing trend.
He said: “We’ve seen more and more of these attacks where people are deliberately weaponising COVID-19 through spitting and coughing on colleagues.
“In Rob’s case, he now has to live with a potentially silent killer and worry about the potential consequences of this despicable attack on himself, fellow officers, and of course his family.
“This kind of cowardly assault is particularly terrifying. On a daily basis, it is becoming more of a threat to every frontline officer as they patrol the streets to help the NHS and fight this virus.
“That is why we must have lengthy jail sentences for this type of awful attack. We need the courts to step up to the mark and support colleagues who are doing their level best to protect the public.”
The National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales also urged magistrates and the judiciary to be consistent with sentencing.
PFEW National Chair Mr Apter said: “Nothing is worse than being spat at or coughed in the face by an individual who says they want to infect you and your family with the most contagious of viruses.
“What is adding insult to injury is the different approaches in how it is sometimes dealt with by courts. Some are being sent to prison, which is where they absolutely deserve to be, whilst others are let off with nothing more than a slap on wrist. This sends completely the wrong message.”
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