NORTH Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones has echoed calls for courts to use maximum sentencing powers in respect of those who assault emergency service workers.

Earlier this week the Leader reported how Sgt Mark Jones, secretary and treasurer of the North Wales Police Federation, shared his views on the matter.

He said while the federation welcomed a doubling of the maximum sentence, from one years to two, courts need to "step up" and impose sentences which would make clear that the behaviour is unacceptable.

PCC Arfon Jones, a former police Inspector for the North Wales force, said: "I fully support the legislation.

"There has been a lot of talk about this doubling of the sentence to two years. "But that is only as good as the ability of the court to dish out these sentences."

Sgt Jones also told the Leader of the additional challenges officers have faced throughout the coronavirus pandemic - including offenders deliberately coughing and spitting at them while claiming to have covid.

Mr Jones said: "With assaults, coughing and pretending you have covid is as bad as it gets - it can have fatal consequences.

"Some have been sentenced for this in North Wales and have left a great deal to be desired.

"The number of coughing and spitting offences has doubled in North Wales from 15 last year to 30 this year. "That is 30 too many."

He said the pandemic has been "a worry for everyone" - particularly with the "risk of officers catching the virus and carrying it home to their families."

"The force has gone to immense lengths for the wellbeing of staff," he continued. "We have 800 people working from home at the moment and they need continued support as much as the frontline officers do."

He also praised officers for their hard work and dedication throughout the emergency, adding: "It took us a while to get it right with the personal protective equipment, but now there is an adequate amount in the force to fully protect them."

On the overall impact of covid-19 on North Wales crime, Mr Jones said the region saw a general reduction of around 25 to 30 per cent during the three-month lockdown.

It had gradually "crept back up" but remains about nine per cent lower than average, he said.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said this week: “Police officers dedicate their lives to protect us - it’s unacceptable to assault them and should never be part of the job.

“That’s why we’re increasing the maximum penalty from 12 months to two years in prison for anyone who assaults an emergency worker.”