More than 170 assaults on emergency workers in lockdown

Greater Manchester Police has recorded more than 170 assaults on emergency workers during the lockdown period.

The force has reported that, of the assaults reported on police and colleagues across the emergency services, some have been subject to physical injuries, whilst others have been "spat on" and even "coughed at" in some cases by individuals claiming to have Covid-19.

GMP has condemned the assaults as "disgusting behaviour" and say many of the incidents have resulted in charges and could result in custodial sentences.

The incidents reported were recorded from Monday 23 March, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson enforced the lockdown, up until Wednesday 13 May.

Assistant Chief Constable Chris Sykes said: “During this unprecedented time, police officers are fulfilling their regular duties to fight crime and protect people across Greater Manchester, whilst assisting partner agencies to manage the increased demand on their services.

"I would like to thank the vast majority of people who are supporting us by complying with the Government’s restrictions and, also, carrying out random acts of kindness.

“Unfortunately, there have been a number of assaults on police officers and colleagues across the emergency services – some have been physically injured whilst others have been spat on/ coughed at, in some cases by individuals claiming to have Covid-19.

"This is disgusting behaviour. Police officers, paramedics and firefighters are working especially hard to protect people at this time and should not be subjected to assaults of any kind.”

One police officer, who works in the City of Manchester district, said whilst morale had been boosted by random acts of public kindness, policing the streets during lockdown has been challenging.

PC Stephen Prestage said: "It’s a challenging time to be a police officer but our morale has been boosted by random acts of kindness by local residents and businesses – from receiving home-made cards to free hot meals whilst on duty.

"However, I am speaking from experience when I say that being assaulted on the job is discouraging. Not only can it hinder our efforts to fight crime and protect people but, throughout the ongoing response to Covid-19, it can also result in us having to isolate from our families." 

The North West Ambulance Service said its staff have been subject to "nasty and violent attacks". 

Ged Blezard, Director of Operations at North West Ambulance Service, said: "Our emergency services staff are working exceptionally hard right now during very challenging circumstances. The response from the public throughout the pandemic has been phenomenal and we have been blown away by the support we have received.

"Sadly though, there have been occasions where staff have been subject to nasty and violent attacks. It’s absolutely unacceptable and I would like to send a clear message that this will not be tolerated. Emergency services staff come to work to help those who need us the most and they should be free to do so without fear of assault.

"We will always support our staff and push for prosecutions. Now, more than ever, we must stand together and support each other."

At the top of the page, watch body worn video footage of this incident:

On Tuesday 31 March 2020, police were called to an incident in the City of Manchester district. Officers attended and a man was arrested. Whilst under arrest, the man repeatedly coughed in an officer’s face. He was subsequently charged. On Thursday 30 April 2020, he pleaded guilty to two counts of assault and one count of assault of an emergency worker and was sentenced to 20 weeks imprisonment.

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