Suspects use coronavirus as ‘weapon’ by coughing at officers

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A senior policeman has said suspects are using coronavirus as a“weapon” after two separate incidents saw officers being coughed at while responding to reports of crime.

Within a 12-hour period, Essex Police officers were allegedly kicked, coughed at, spat on and bitten while responding to calls at shops in Leigh-on-Sea and Ongar.

Assistant chief constable Paul Wells said: “Unbelievably, this weekend we have seen suspects using the Covid-19 virus as a weapon against officers - who, in these incredibly challenging times, continue in their duty to keep the community safe.”

At around 7pm on Saturday March 28, three officers were allegedly kicked, coughed at and spat on while responding to reports that a shop worker had been assaulted at the Tesco Express nearby.

Andrew Tilley, 28, has pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court to two counts of assault by beating of an emergency worker and one count of common assault on an emergency worker, assault by beating, drink driving, criminal damage, driving with no insurance or a licence and failing to stop.

He is due to be sentenced on Tuesday 21 April.

Earlier that day, police responded to reports that staff at a Tesco Express in Ongar were abused by a man who drove off with stolen alcohol - while making an arrest, officers said they were coughed at and bitten.

A 25-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of theft, common assault on an emergency worker, common assault, criminal damage, failing to stop and possession of cannabis. He has been released on bail until April 8.

Mr Wells said that such incidents “remain rare” but warned that anyone who assaults an officer will be arrested and put before a court.

Essex Police said in a statement: “Our officers are continuing to work hard to protect the people of Essex during this challenging time and we will not stand for them being assaulted.

“These offences are unacceptable and will be dealt with.”

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