John Johnson | Editor
We always knew that some members of the criminal fraternity would try and take advantage of the COVID-19 national emergency.
And we always knew that some deplorable individuals would use the threat of COVID-19 against our emergency services & NHS workers.
But what we did not know, was how would the criminal justice system respond to the individuals who used this national emergency to further their own ill-gotten gains.
As a news provider for members of the emergency services the NHS and their millions of collective friends, family members and supporters, we have covered stories about our former colleagues being assaulted for several years now.
Each member of our team has served in either the emergency services, the NHS or the armed forces.
We have a section on our website dedicated to covering the most severe assaults which are inflicted upon the men and women who dedicate their lives to helping others.
The sad truth is that there are too many assaults perpetrated upon our former colleagues to cover every single one with a dedicated article.
Which is why we now only cover the serious ones; or the assaults which result in serious injuries.
Knowing what we do – from our own experience – about the sentences which are usually handed down to the individuals who are found guilty of assaulting emergency workers, then we expected to see examples being made of the individuals who have used coronavirus for their selfish gains.
And, I am pleased to say, we were not wrong.
Both the Crown Prosecution Service and the Courts have ensured that the vast majority of people who have let our society down and who have assaulted the men and women who are trying to keep us safe and protect us, have been sent to prison.
Here are just a few examples:
Spitting or coughing on essential workers
- Bevan Burke, 22, was arrested on 3 April in Leicester for breaching the terms of his licence and in the process, coughed at police officers telling them he hoped they died from the virus. He has been sentenced to 42 weeks in prison for two counts of assaulting an emergency worker and assault by beating.
- On Friday 3 April in Newton Aycliffe, Tony Brash,33, purposely coughed on six police officers who were processing his arrest for an earlier incident when he was abusive to a shopkeeper. He pleaded guilty to assaulting an emergency worker and was given a 12-week suspended sentence.
- Scott Crook, 29, and Stewart Motley, 29, stole £32.91 from an Alzheimer’s charity box from a closed climbing centre in Leicester on Saturday 4 April. Despite being pursued by police, Motley responded to the officer trying to arrest him by coughing directly in his face. Motley and Crook have been sentenced to a collective 44 weeks in prison as a result.
- On 28 March when Wesley Upton, 26, was arrested for breaching a criminal order in Huntingdon, he spat at police telling them he was infected with coronavirus and hoped that everyone around him would be infected. Upton admitted his actions and was sentenced to six months in prison.
- Patrick Delaney, 47, spat at employees in a Lidl in Warrington before spitting on police who responded to the incident on 30 March. Delaney pleaded guilty to the assault and has been jailed for 22 weeks.
Criminals Exploiting Coronavirus For Their Own Gain
- Ashaq Sattar, 40, knocked on the doors of elderly and vulnerable people in Kirklees, pretending that he was an NHS volunteer and would collect their medicine for a small fee. He pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud and was sentenced to 52 weeks in prison.
- On 28 March, Steven Mackie, 53, kept approaching people stood in a queue to get into a Tesco in Stalybridge. Despite police taking him home, 15 minutes later he returned to the same shop and was causing a nuisance. Mackie was given a £500 fine for breaching the restrictions on movement.
- Jason Harewood, 27, pleaded guilty to contravening the requirement as to the restriction of movement during the emergency period and drug-related offences, after he was caught distributing drugs on his pedal bike in Islington on Friday 3 April with no reason to be outside.
- Kierran Stevenson, 32, was given a 12-week prison sentence after he posted on social media that he was going to go walk around a hospital in Aylesbury to see the extent of the coronavirus pandemic for himself. He then posted photos on Facebook at the hospital and images of hospital corridors on 30 March, and commented that staff were not taking safety measures seriously.
The Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC said:
“Although this is only a small sample of the cases that we have prosecuted over the last week, it clearly demonstrates the number of people who are determined to break the law in the most critical of times.
“It is disappointing to see charges come in on a daily basis of hard-working police officers, NHS staff and other vital workers, being coughed or spat at, sometimes deliberately exposing them to the risk of infecting them with coronavirus.
“We take these offences immensely seriously and want to make it absolutely clear- that where there is evidence to do so, people will be prosecuted and can face up to one year in prison.
“We recently launched our interim charging protocol, where we set out that any offending related to coronavirus will be treated as the highest priority, and we will not hesitate to bring offenders to justice.”
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