A ZERO tolerance approach will be taken on members of the public who choose to attack police officers - after bosses admitted a spike in cases had been reported across Barnsley during lockdown.

Violent attacks have rocketed by 56 per cent in the last year, according to South Yorkshire Police, which has involved assault, resisting arrest and spitting incidents.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts said: “This is a reminder that violent criminals don’t just enact violence to the public but they carry out such acts to police officers as well.

“We’ve got a lot of very brave people out there putting themselves in between the perpetrators and the public themselves to keep them safe.

“Sadly, that means our officers get assaulted on a regular basis which is a real concern.

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“We equip them as best we can and expect, and increasingly do see the courts taking an appropriate line when people assault officers or other emergency workers.

“Our officers come to work every day and consistently demonstrate their commitment and dedication to serving their local communities and keeping people safe.

“No officer should face violence in the course of their duties and we’re doing all we can to prevent our officers being assaulted.

“We have absolutely zero tolerance for individuals who choose to be violent towards our officers and will work to bring individuals before the courts.”

Worsbrough Common woman Keeley Jones, 34, was given a four-month jail sentence, which was suspended for a year, recently for attacking two officers in Barnsley town centre’s custody suite, where she spat, coughed and claimed she had coronavirus.

Kane Taylor, 32, from Monk Bretton, was jailed for ten months for attacking two female PCs while they were on duty and 38-year-old Dean Watson, also of Monk Bretton, was sentenced to a year in prison for spitting at two officers and threatening and racist behaviour in other higher profile local cases.

Chief Inspector Andy Berriman said: “Our officers are absolutely committed to serving our communities here in Barnsley despite the challenges around Covid-19.

“While I am pleased that majority of the public are supportive of our officers, there are a few who believed they could use the current Covid-19 crisis to threaten, intimidate or try to cause harm to officers.

“This behaviour will not be tolerated and we will ensure that those who do so are brought before the courts.”

South Yorkshire Police invested more than £1m on body cameras for its officers, but rising cases have been condemned by Dr Alan Billings, the county’s police and crime commissioner, who warned perpetrators that stiffer sentences await.

“It is a shocking figure and the overwhelming majority of the public would be equally shocked to hear that,” he added.

““It is estimated that across the country a frontline police officer is assaulted every four minutes. This is quite unacceptable.

“The number of assaults has reached unacceptable levels.

“We ask police officers to put themselves in harm’s way every day on our behalf. It is essential, therefore, that we give them all the support we can. That may include increasing the sentences available to the courts.

“If we are to be kept safe by the police we need to ensure in return that they are kept safe as they do their job.”