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02 April 2020
Scottish Police Federation calls for better advice on handling people spitting at police

Image credit: George Clerk/iStock

Scottish Police Federation calls for better advice on handling people spitting at police

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) has labelled advice issued by the Lord Advocate to police on how to deal with arresting people during the pandemic outbreak as a “missed opportunity” to stamp out an “emerging trend” of people coughing or spitting at police.

On Wednesday, Scotland’s Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC issued advice on the approach police should take regarding individuals who are in police custody during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The guidance says that officers “should keep an accused in custody where there is a substantial risk to a victim, witness or the public which cannot be mitigated by undertaking conditions”. Where a case is “unlikely to result in solemn proceedings” or does not involve vulnerable victims or witnesses, then it was “less likely to be appropriate to keep the accused in custody”.

The advice also details how police should approach domestic violence cases, saying: “In some cases, it will be both reasonable and necessary to hold a person in custody pending the submission of a report to the Procurator Fiscal”.

Additionally: “Every effort should be made to ensure that victims are advised that a suspect is to be released, and advised of any conditions of undertaking, before the suspect is in fact released.”

However, the SPF said the advice should have also addressed “a disturbing trend” which has seen police officers being “deliberately coughed on or spat at” by people in custody, in an attempt to infect them with the virus.

“It is sickening that people resort to this kind of malice against those that are trying to protect society. This horrific conduct threatens the safety of not just our officers, but their families and colleagues too,” SPF chair David Hamilton said.

“The absence of specific direction from the Lord Advocate to keep such persons in custody was a missed opportunity to show that society will not tolerate such attacks on its police officers.

“We need only look down south to see how offenders are being quickly and severely punished by the courts and we urge the Lord Advocate to match England’s stance and review his guidance.”

On Thursday, Sky News reported that a 23-year-old Lancashire man was jailed for one year after he spat at police during an arrest and claimed he had coronavirus.

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