Supermarkets ‘must protect their customers’ says Malthouse
Louts threatened staff with axes, syringes and knives in around one million violent incidents last year. Sometimes frontline workers were attacked after asking people to wear a face mask or to follow social-distancing guidelines. Co-op bosses recorded 730 cases a day between January and December last year as the number of incidents soared above 200,000 – a rise of 140 percent on 2019.
The chain has declared “enough is enough” amid an eruption in violence inside its stores.
John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, wants anyone who assaults an emergency worker to be jailed. He said: “Those who commit these attacks must spend time in prison.
“When someone knowingly has the virus, or believes they have it, and then wilfully coughs or spits at a police officer we need [the Crown Prosecution Service] to consider a much more serious charge than the ‘assaults on emergency workers’ category. Without this, these types of attacks will continue to rise.”
Paddy Lillis, general secretary of the Usdaw shopworkers’ union, last night urged the Government to make it a specific offence to assault, abuse or threaten staff.
Supermarkets say that the latest lockdown has caused a rise in aggression
He said: “There needs to be urgent action. We are deeply disappointed by the Government’s response, offering little more than sympathy.” Scotland brought in a law to protect shop staff from abuse and assault this week.
Mr Apter said: “Being spat and coughed at, in the middle of a pandemic which has taken so many lives, is disgusting, dangerous and inhumane. Individuals who commit these offences are even saying they have the virus and hope the officer catches it then dies. This…may shock decent members of society but will not come as any real surprise to colleagues.
“Police officers on the frontline are increasingly facing abuse from a small minority who think nothing of deliberately weaponising the virus.” He claimed sentencing is “inconsistent and often leaves victims feeling completely let down.
“Those who commit these attacks must spend time in prison, as without this there is no deterrent and emergency workers will continue to feel let down.
Members of the police force has been coughed and spat on
“We have recently seen examples of Covid being transmitted to colleagues through these attacks.”
The CPS charged 1,688 people with attacking an emergency worker between April 1 and September 30 after the first lockdown.
Many cases involved police being coughed and spat on while others were “kicked, bitten and hit with heavy objects”, the CPS said.
Max Hill, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “I will continue to do everything in my power to protect those who so selflessly keep us safe during this crisis.”
More people are lashing out at shop staff who try to enforce rules on the wearing of face coverings.
Attacks on police increased sharply amid protests over virus restrictions
Craig Wheatley, 40, a Co-op store manager in Oakwood, Derby, said the abuse is the worst he has seen. He added: “It affects all retailers. It is not all customers.
“The majority are brilliant and it is clear they really value the role of the local store.
“But whether it is face masks being a flashpoint or other frustrations spilling over into stores, it is not acceptable.”
One in five people polled by the retailer admitted being aggressive to frontline shop workers during the crisis, despite 90 percent of Britons believing that staff provide an essential service.
Nearly a quarter of aggressors said that frustrations caused by panic buying had prompted them to lash out.
Paul Gerrard, the Co-op’s director of campaigns and public affairs, said: “Enough is enough. At the same time as people recognised the essential role shopworkers have played to keep communities fed, we have witnessed an explosion in violence, abuse and anti-social behaviour.
“Shopworkers need to know that the Government is listening and takes this issue in our communities seriously. I believe they deserve our thanks, not abuse.”
Iceland recorded 650 instances of verbal abuse and 30 of physical assault since March, as a result of its employees enforcing coronavirus measures.
The supermarket said that the latest lockdown had caused a rise in aggression, following a decline over the previous 12 weeks.
A spokesman said: “The majority of violent incidents continue to relate to shoplifting.”
Police escalated Covid law enforcement during the third lockdown
A spokesman for Tesco said the chain had recorded “a small number of incidents where colleagues have been subject to abuse while doing their jobs and this is unacceptable.
“We ask that everyone is respectful to our colleagues.
“We do not tolerate any kind of abusive behaviour and will take action if anyone is found acting in this way.”
Nationally, there were 8,921 assaults on police officers between April and June 2020. That is up by 1,021 on the 7,900 attacks on staff the previous year, a rise of 13 percent.
In London, attacks on police increased sharply. Amid protests over virus restrictions, there were 2,027 assaults on officers between May and July – a 38 percent increase compared with 2019.
Supermarket employees have been asked to enforce coronavirus measures
Figures show there were 411 assaults on police officers in the North-east between April and June 2020. In that time there were 131 recorded attacks on Durham Constabulary staff and 280 on officers serving with Northumbria Police.
From March 2 to December 6, Kent Police noted 252 cases where its officers were assaulted by being spat at – 21 percent of the 1,191 total attacks on staff.
Thames Valley Police recorded 1,084 attacks on officers from February to November last year.
Meanwhile, Hertfordshire Const-abulary reported 121 assaults on its officers, which included coughing, spitting or biting, from February to November last year.
That total was up from the 103 attacks that were recorded during the same period in 2019.