Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Martin Surl has been told that anyone caught exploiting coronavirus for crime can expect an appropriate punishment.

It follows the PCC’s letter to the Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland calling for tougher sentences for pandemic-related offences.

In it, Mr. Surl set out his plans to safeguard the elderly and most vulnerable and called for sentencing guidelines to reflect the current climate.

Crimes against the vulnerable are totally unacceptable

In reply, the minister responsible for sentencing policy, Chris Philip MP, said the Government took the issue very seriously and that courts had the flexibility to make sentencing fit the crime.

In a written response to Mr Surl he said, “I completely agree that crimes against the vulnerable are totally unacceptable and would like to reassure you that the Government is committed to ensuring a robust response to those who exploit the Covid-19 outbreak through criminal means.

“I welcome your contribution to this issue and have carefully considered the points you raise.

“When deciding what sentences to impose, courts must consider the circumstances of the case, including the culpability of the offender, the harm they cause or intended to cause and any aggravating or mitigating factors”.

“I believe the public would fully support and expect a severe sentence”

Welcoming the Government’s response, Mr. Surl said, “I’m pleased to hear that the Government is taking the issue of coronavirus-related fraud seriously. Here in Gloucestershire, I have asked the Chief Constable to prioritise any reports of such crimes; expedite relevant investigations and take all steps possible to prevent further offences.

“Whilst I have every confidence in the independence of the judiciary, I also believe that the public would fully support and expect a severe sentence, likely to include a substantial period of custody, for anyone who commits fraud or deception that in any way takes advantage of the current pandemic.”