MORE than 400 people have been prosecuted for coronavirus-related offences in April, including hundreds of assaults on police and ambulance staff.

The figures for England and Wales show 442 suspects were charged with 660 such offences during lockdown last month, according to Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC, with a conviction rate of around 97 per cent.

He told the Commons Justice Committee that offences included 313 emergency worker assaults, 142 offences of criminal damage, 99 public order offences, 62 common assaults, and 44 cases of shoplifting.


The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said this meant cases where the individual was convicted as well as acquitted.

The CPS said this included 313 attacks which followed a “typical pattern” of police officers and other emergency workers being coughed at and spat on by members of the public claiming to have Covid-19.

Mr Hill said in a statement: “It is disgraceful that hard-working essential workers continue to be abused during a health emergency and I have warned repeatedly that anyone doing so faces serious criminal charges.

“Offences which relate to coronavirus, including assaults on emergency workers, are being treated among the highest priority for charging decisions during the pandemic.

“I am pleased to see our strong stance reflected in this data, with hundreds of convictions recorded in the first month alone.

“All other crimes where there is a coronavirus element are also being captured by prosecutors so these can be treated as aggravating features in court.”

Mr Hill told the committee that domestic abuse cases are also among those being treated “as a priority”, amid concerns over how lockdown measures might affect violence in the home.

Mr Hill said: “We are as alarmed as anybody by the very difficult position that, in the main, women are put in, particularly in some communities, in enforced lockdown.

“It is very important that we say publicly that we are there to deal with those cases.”

Police previously identified a three per cent rise in domestic incidents reported to the police, and Mr Hill said the CPS is “starting to see” an increase in such cases.

But he said reports of a surge in calls to the England-wide domestic abuse helpline does not necessarily mean an increase in reports of crimes taking place.

He said: “Those callers were very sensibly either checking on their own account, or on behalf of relatives, ‘What do we do if things get worse?’. Calling a helpline is not the same as a report of crime.

“There are certain types of crime happening less frequently because of lockdown but there are indications that there are some areas where we are going to have to maintain our focus and vigilance, and domestic abuse is right up there.”