‘Missed opportunity’ to tackle deliberate infecting of officers with Covid-19

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) says the Lord Advocate’s revised guidance on police custody is a “missed opportunity” to tackle deliberate infecting of officers with Covid-19.

Apr 2, 2020
By Paul Jacques
David Hamilton

Published yesterday (April 1), the guidelines relate to the ‘liberation of persons’ from police custody. These direct Police Scotland on the approach to take regarding individuals who are in custody having been arrested during the period of disruption caused by Covid-19.

In particular, the Lord Advocate says that at all times that a person is in police custody, “officers must have regard to that person’s right to liberty under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights and must consider whether it is reasonable or necessary to keep that person in custody”.

The SPF says that as police officers join health professionals on the front line of this crisis, a “disturbing trend” has seen them being deliberately coughed on or spat at them in an attempt to infect.

SPF chair David Hamilton said: “It is sickening that people resort to this kind of malice against those that are trying to protect society. This horrific conduct threatens the safety of not just our officers, but their families and colleagues too.

“The absence of specific direction from the Lord Advocate to keep such persons in custody was a missed opportunity to show that society will not tolerate such attacks on its police officers. We need only look down south to see how offenders are being quickly and severely punished by the courts and we urge the Lord Advocate to match England’s stance and review his guidance.”

The guidelines detail circumstances that need to be considered during the pandemic, but highlight cases such as domestic abuse as being “worthy of particular consideration”, and given the particular risks associated with the offence, in some cases it would be “both reasonable and necessary to hold a person in custody pending the submission of a report to the Procurator Fiscal”.

However, the Lord Advocate says the duty to ensure that a person is not unreasonably or unnecessarily held in police custody must be considered in every case and the reasons why a person was not released should be fully recorded, adding: “All constables must understand and be able to explain and justify their decision-making if called upon to do so, for example, when giving evidence at trial.”

The guidance also states that where there are ongoing inquiries, “a person arrested, but not officially accused, should be kept in custody only if it is not appropriate to release the person unconditionally or on investigative liberation subject to appropriate conditions”.

The Lord Advocate’s Revised Guidance can be found at https://spf.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/LAs-Guidelines-on-Liberation-Coronavirus-Publication-Version-02-010420.pdf

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