‘DISGRACEFUL’ attacks on Hampshire police officers have hit a four-year high during the coronavirus pandemic, figures reveal.

The number of assaults across England and Wales has been described as “disgusting” by the Police Federation, which says many offences involved spitting and coughing during a time of fear over the spread of Covid-19.

Home Office data shows 1,304 attacks on police officers were recorded by Hampshire Constabulary between April 2020 and March 2021.

That was an increase from the 1,245 reported the previous year, and the highest number since comparable figures began in 2017-18. Of the attacks in 2020-21, 352 resulted in an injury to the officer, compared to 387 the previous year.

The figures reflect a jump in such attacks across England and Wales, where recorded assaults on officers increased 14 per cent during the pandemic period, to around 37,000.

They included 11,200 which left officers injured.

Chair of Hampshire Police Federation, Zoe Wakefield, said: “This is a worrying trend – and action is needed now to stop this.

“There are just not enough officers. Too many times officers are either alone and or with one other officer trying to control violent offenders. If there were more officers, firstly the offender may think again about being violent. Secondly it is easier for officers to get control of them when there are more of us. We also need the criminal justice system to realise the seriousness of these assaults and issue appropriate sentencing. There are too many times when offenders are given lenient sentences or not even prosecuted.”

Donna Jones, Police and Crime Commissioner, added: “The fact that assaults against officers have increased during the pandemic is disgraceful. These officers have been working tirelessly and putting themselves and their families at risk of Covid to help keep the public safe. Attacks on police officers must never be considered as ‘just part of the job’. The Police provide a vital public service – the fact they endure vile abuse and even physical assault in the course of their duties is appalling and unacceptable, that’s why the Government are introducing tougher sentences for people who attack the emergency services.”