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Coronavirus: Spitting on key workers could mean a year in jail

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Warning: Stephen Herron

Warning: Stephen Herron

PA

Warning: Stephen Herron

Northern Ireland's chief prosecutor has warned that anyone who spits or coughs on key workers could face up to a year in prison.

Translink staff have been targeted by people claiming they have Covid-19 in Belfast.

The most recent incident saw a bus driver spat at by a passenger in the Ormeau Road area.

Previously a railway worker was targeted at Great Victoria Street station and a Glider staff member targeted in west Belfast.

Several police officers in Northern Ireland have also been subjected to similar attacks in recent weeks.

Stephen Herron, the director of the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland, warned that spitting or coughing attacks on police and emergency services "will not be tolerated" and perpetrators should expect a robust response.

His counterpart in England and Wales, Max Hill QC, has previously said he was "appalled" at this behaviour and stated anyone using coronavirus to threaten emergency and essential workers faces serious criminal charges.

Mr Herron said: "Assaults against emergency service workers should never be tolerated.

"However, it is even more important that they are protected during the coronavirus pandemic while they work tirelessly to help us all.

"We will work closely with police to ensure that anyone coughing on, spitting at or threatening any front line service worker can expect to face robust prosecution with a possible period of imprisonment of up to 12 months.

"If actual harm is caused, more serious charges could be brought with potentially increased sentences."

On Saturday night a Belfast bus driver was spat at by a passenger who claimed to have the coronavirus.

The driver, called Michael, told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show that the passenger coughed in his direction before spitting at him during his last journey of the night.

He said the man was the last passenger and as he got off spat and coughed in his direction before shouting: "Virus, I have the virus and now you have the virus, you better wear a mask."

Michael said that when he contacted police, officers told him there had been similar incidents over the last few days.

Belfast Telegraph