A THAMES Valley Police officer had his face mask ripped off before he was spat at in one of 50 ‘repulsive’ and ‘horrific’ attacks since coronavirus lockdown began.

Frontline officers are shielded from the deadly disease with PPE equipment like masks and gloves.

But since the end of March, when Boris Johnson urged the public to stay at home and save lives, around 50 officers have reported being coughed on, spat at and even bitten in vile crimes.

General assaults are also on the rise with 40 more assaults confirmed over the two months, compared to the same time last year.

Now the force’s Federation head has said it is ‘despicable’ especially in a time when ‘everybody is worried sick’.

Chairman Craig O’Leary said: “It’s incredibly sad that we’re seeing not only an increase by 40 assaults compared to this time last year, but that we have had 50 incidents where my policing colleagues in the Thames Valley have been spat at, coughed on or even bitten.

“Being assaulted in this way is an absolutely despicable crime at the best of times but it certainly is in the current climate when everyone’s worried sick about COVID-19 and we have people deliberately coughing in peoples’ faces or in one case, where a colleague had his facemask removed and somebody spat in his face.”

Read again: police officer fired on the spot after not declaring Bicester Village incident

One silver lining has been the judiciary’s desire to hand down robust sentences to those who assault officers in this way, Mr O'Leary added.

He said: “We’ve been fairly lucky in the Thames Valley that the judiciary have been handing out custodial sentences to individuals that have been arrested and put before the courts for these COVID-19-related assaults.

“While the sentences may never be enough for some, the fact that they are being issued custodial sentences should be applauded.

Read more: CBD Oil does not help cure coronavirus, police warn

“Hopefully, as we come out of the crisis, we’ll look at taking a lot harsher line on sentencing when it comes to police officer assaults, and emergency service worker assaults.”

The head of the police John Campbell also echoed the message saying it is 'deplorable' in the current climate.

However Mr O'Leary also explained that there was some positives with the easing of lockdown restrictions helping policing return to 'normal'.

He said: “It’s busy out there now with more people out and about and our officers are now starting to return to business as usual. We’ve still got the right amounts of PPE that we need, and I think we’re starting to move forward, back to normal style policing.”