HAMPSHIRE Police Federation has reporting a rise in the number of police officers being spat at during the coronavirus crisis.

Federation chairman Alex Charge has called for prison sentences to be handed down to anyone found guilty of the assaults.

He said: "We’ve had an increase in spitting assaults. It is just so disgraceful that in this climate where police officers are out trying to protect the public, people are spitting at them and threatening to spit at them and give them and potentially their families Covid-19.

“It’s disgusting, and we are very keen that where people are convicted of those assaults that the criminal justice system works and those people go to prison.

“They need to be made an example of by the criminal justice system, it’s that simple. If they don’t go to prison, it’s not acceptable.”

Mr Charge hopes the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS) and Home Office will shortly agree on recommended sentencing.

This follows two offenders elsewhere in the country being punished with prison sentences.

He said: “I know nationally the CPS and the Home Office are working around seeking to get those sort of sentences handed out.

“It’s very heartening that the two I’m aware of resulted in prison sentences for offenders. That’s what we want to see. That gives a clear message to people who think they might spit or threaten to spit at police officers, and that’s what we’d expect from the criminal justice system; to look after us.

“They’ve got family at home, they’ve got friends, they’ve got relatives, and they don’t want to catch Covid-19 while at work and bring it back into their families.

“We have had some cases of coronavirus. We’ve got quite a number isolating, and the force has been very good in terms of freeing up people who have got family in high-risk groups.

“The force has some advanced plans about people’s welfare and keeping people safe the best they can.”

Hampshire Police Federation’s Vice-Chair Zoë Wakefield added: “It’s disgusting. It shouldn’t be tolerated at all. Spitting has always been an issue for police officers – before this, heroin addicts and people who knew they were infected with hepatitis have used it as a weapon. People should be dealt with; the courts should deal with them as robustly as they can.”