ASSAULTS on police officers surged in the North East during the pandemic.

New figures published by the Home Office show there were 1,380 assaults against officers in the region between April 2020 and March 2021.

The stark figure represents a 28 per cent increase from 1,077 in 2019/20 and includes 252 assaults which resulted in an injury - a six per cent increase from 238 in 2019/20.

In County Durham, 583 assaults on officers were recorded - a 15 per cent increase from 505 the previous year.

And in Cleveland, there were 592 assaults on police officers in the same time period.

The figures cover assaults on officers that result with and without an injury.

Responding to the increase, a spokesman for Durham Constabulary said: "Our officers regularly put their own lives at risk to protect our communities and keep people safe.

"They should never have to face abuse or assaults while simply doing their job – this type of behaviour is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated."

READ MORE: Durham Constabulary vows to improve sexual abuse victim support

In November 2018 the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act doubled the maximum penalty for common assault from six to 12 months.

The legislation covers police, prison staff, custody officers, firefighters, search and rescue workers and health workers.

Assault can include acts such as a push, shove or being spat at, as well as more serious injuries that can lead to much longer sentences.

Overall, assaults in England and Wales increased by 20 per cent as 36,969 assaults on police were recorded - more than 100 every day.

John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation, said officers had been exposed to a "disgusting level of violence".

“Many of these recorded attacks involve vile individuals who have spat on or coughed at police officers, weaponising the virus and threatening to spread it to them and their families.

“This unjustified violence is a stain on society and needs to be dealt with robustly.”

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