CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

JUSTICE – THREAT OF, AND ASSAULT BY, SPITTING [53275] – 2 June 2020

Dr Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, whether it is a criminal offence (a) to threaten and (b) to actually (i) spit, (ii) cough and (iii) sneeze upon another person; whether any such offence is aggravated by a claim by the assailant to be infected with the covid-19 virus; whether it is in the public interest to prosecute such cases, in present circumstances; and if he will review any recent decision to take no action against such an assailant on grounds that the subsequent death of the victim could not be directly attributed to the assault.  [53275]

[Due for Answer on 8 June.]

ANSWER

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Alex Chalk): Whether such behaviour amounts to a criminal offence will depend on the circumstances. Threatening to infect someone with covid-19, for example, can be charged as an assault and if a direct causal link can be established between one person’s unlawful act and another person contracting the virus then other more serious offences could be charged. Each case is considered on its own specific facts.

Provided there is sufficient evidence, whether it is in the public interest to prosecute such cases is a matter for the CPS. The Director of Public Prosecutions has made clear that the CPS will not hesitate to prosecute those using covid-19 to threaten people in this way and CPS data shows that more than 300 such prosecutions were brought in the first month of lockdown alone.

The Sentencing Council has published interim guidance clarifying that, when sentencing common assault offences involving threats or activity relating to the transmission of covid-19, courts should treat this as an aggravating feature of the offence and take this into account when sentencing.

The Government has no remit for reviewing operational decisions of the police or the CPS in individual cases.

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[EXTRACT FROM CABINET OFFICE GUIDANCE] 

CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK FAQS: WHAT YOU CAN AND CAN’T DO UNTIL 4 JULY

UPDATED ON 24 JUNE 2020

[ ... ]

1.5 What is a criminal offence?

It is a criminal offence to:

·         meet indoors with anyone who is not a member of your household or, from 13 June, your support bubble, except for specific exceptions set out in law

·         meet outdoors in a group of more than six with people who are not in your household or support bubble, except for specific exceptions set out in law

·         incite others to break the rules by e.g. inviting people to a party

·         threaten others with infection by coronavirus, for example by coughing or spitting in their direction