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A police boss is urging the courts to inflict the maximum penalty on people found guilty of spitting our coughing in the faces of officers saying they were infected with coronavirus.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones has been sickened after hearing of frontline police officers and other emergency workers being subjected to the “vile practise”.

Mr Jones, a former police inspector, spoke out after hearing of a growing number of cases.

The issue has also been raised by First Minister Mark Drakeford who is “very concerned” about reports of police being assaulted, including being coughed and spat on.

Earlier this month a woman appeared before magistrates in Mold after spitting in the faces of two officers in Holywell.

The offence happened  after the officers were called to deal with a disturbance involving a man and a woman at a kebab shop in the town.

After the man was detained the woman became aggressive with both officers and spat in their faces.

She was charged with two counts of assaulting an emergency worker under Section 5 of the Public Order Act.

The woman received a 26-week prison sentence which was suspended for 12 months and she was ordered to pay £150 in compensation together with a Victim Surcharge of £128 and a curfew for 26 weeks with electronic monitoring

Other incidents are understood to have taken place in Flint and Bangor while a man from Rhyl was recalled to jail after preparing to spit at police whilst saying he had COVID-19.

Mr Jones said: “Unfortunately, we have had a number of examples of people spitting or coughing in the faces of officers in North Wales.

“The sentence was criticised by the Police Federation for being unduly lenient and it is unfortunate the magistrates did not take the opportunity to send a message out.

“The Sentencing Council for England and Wales, which produces  guidelines on sentencing for the judiciary and criminal justice professionals, go by the seriousness of the offence and not by the evidence and there is nothing more serious than breaking the law to spread a deadly virus.

“This vile behaviour by a minority of offenders are putting these brave frontline staff at risk of contracting this awful virus, with potentially fatal consequences.”

After hearing the punishment imposed on the woman who was prosecuted following the incident in Holywell, Mark Jones, General Secretary of North Wales Police Federation, said: “I am absolutely appalled at this pathetic sentence.

“Two police officers, carrying out their public duty have been disgustingly spat on, in their faces, by this vile person. My two colleagues have received no justice whatsoever and have been completely let down by the judiciary.

“Given the national crisis we are in with COVID-19; the dangerous and killer virus that it is, for the Courts to give a light slap on the wrist for this disgusting act is shameful.

“We seemed to be making some progress recently with tougher sentences being issued to those who weaponised COVID-19 but with taking one step forward we have now taken two steps back”.

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