Covid-19 assault suspects ‘should be held in custody’

Offenders who threaten to infect officers with coronavirus should be held until they appear in court, the SPF has said.

Covid-19 assault suspects ‘should be held in custody’ Getty Images

Offenders who try or threaten to infect police officers with coronavirus should be held in custody until they appear in court, the Scottish Police Federation has said.

In evidence submitted to Holyrood’s justice committee, the SPF said it is “morally indefensible” that policies are skewed to those committing offences rather than enforcing lockdown regulations.

Speaking ahead of the committee meeting, SPF general secretary Calum Steele said the “vast majority” of suspects have not been held in custody before appearing in court.

Mr Steele revealed that there have now been more than 100 “Covid assaults” where a suspect has attacked, spat, coughed or sneezed at a police officer while claiming to be infected with coronavirus.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: “These kinds of crimes – spitting in someone’s face or in their mouth or in their direction in a deliberate attempt to either infect them with a potentially deadly virus or to cause them such an alarm as to result in mental anguish for a significant period of time – is a reprehensible crime.

“Anyone who argues that such time should not result in appearance before the bench for the earliest opportunity is frankly doing a disservice to the communities of Scotland.”

Mr Steele suggested that the availablity of PPE and coronavirus testing has “improved significantly” since the start of the pandemic, and there are now specialist cells for people who may have the virus.

He added: “The custody environment is probably one of the best equipped environments in policing to deal with those that claim to have, or are symptomatic for coronavirus.

“We have a reduced number of custody facilities across Scotland specifically for suspects that fall into that category and the level of PPE and hygiene facilities in those environments are second to none.

“I would argue that it is much safer to keep these people in custody in these environments than let them back out into the general population where they will continue that offending at will.” 

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