Another sign of the times under coronavirus: spitting on a police officer in Belgium now carries punishment of up to two years in prison, seen as an ‘attack with dangerous substances’.
That penalty, already applied seven times over the past week in the city of Antwerp, will be applied to any other person directing their dribble at law enforcement, several officials told AFP.
Spitting has been explicitly put on a list of new violations sent around to prosecutors’ offices by authorities, they said.
‘Intentionally spitting or coughing in the direction of someone and saying you are carrying the virus can come under different categories, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment,’ said Christian De Valkeneer, chief prosecutor for the eastern city of Liege.
The categories include disobeying police and threatening an attack using dangerous substances, he said.
Prosecutors have been told to consider systematically pressing charges for such infractions.
Kristof Aerts, spokesman for the Antwerp prosecutor’s office, said several cases of individuals spitting at police had been registered.
‘This type of behaviour isn’t unusual. We note it regularly. But with the coronavirus it’s important to take immediate action,’ he said.
On Monday, a 19-year-old man was jailed for a day after resisting arrest in an Antwerp park for breaking new rules prohibiting public gatherings imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
‘As soon as he was handcuffed, he spat in the direction of the officers,’ Aerts said, adding that such behaviour was ‘socially totally unacceptable’.
Six similar incidents have been registered in the city over the past week by police intervening in streets, parks or during traffic stops, he said.
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