COVID-19: 6,500 prosecutions against COVID rule-breakers in first six months of pandemic

January 21, 2021

Almost 6,500 coronavirus-related offences were prosecuted in the first six months of the pandemic - the majority of which were assaults on emergency workers, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has said.

Many of these involved police officers being coughed on and spat at - with others kicked, bitten and hit with heavy objects - after stopping suspected COVID rule-breakers, CPS data shows.

There were also more than 1,100 prosecutions under the coronavirus legislation forbidding unnecessary travel and unlawful gatherings.

Cases included a man caught travelling between counties in Wales to solicit the services of a sex worker, and a man in Manchester who was caught having a house party with 15 people who he tried to claim were part of his support bubble.

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But it was assaults on emergency workers that topped the list of offences, with 1,688 charges recorded between 1 April and 30 September last year.

In total 2,106 people were prosecuted for 6,469 crimes, with a conviction rate of 90%. Of these, 286 cases were withdrawn.

A breakdown of the prosecutions:

• Coronavirus-related offences: 1,137
• Assaults on emergency workers: 1,688
• Public order offences: 480
• Criminal damage: 466
• Common assaults: 464
• Other offences: 2,234
• Total: 6,469

As well as prosecuting offences under COVID-19 legislation, the CPS said it has introduced a "coronavirus flag" on its case management system to highlight criminality related to the pandemic as an aggravating feature at sentencing.

This can include coughing and spitting while threatening to "infect" another person with the virus, thefts of essential items or fraudsters taking advantage of the crisis.

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Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC said: "We are also determined to see wider criminality during lockdown periods reflected in court, which is evident in the charges seen in this data.

"Particularly appalling is the high number of assaults on emergency workers still taking place and I will continue to do everything in my power to protect those who so selflessly keep us safe during this crisis."

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