British Transport Police (BTP) has announced that no charges will be laid against the man said to have spat on transport worker Belly Mujinga after saying he was infected with the coronavirus. Ms Mujinga subsequently died of the virus.
The force said, after interviewing the man, that it had established that Ms Mujinga’s death “was not a consequence” of the incident – and, astonishingly, that there was no evidence that an offence had taken place.
Whether or not the infection was a direct result of the spitting incident, even the threat to spit on someone is assault – and actually doing so is battery, as legal experts told The Conversation:
To threaten someone with harm is an assault, and to apply unlawful force to their person, by spitting, for example, is a battery. Where the offender explicitly declares that they have coronavirus, or any other condition, (whether this is in fact true or not is irrelevant) it is more likely that an assault is committed. It is sufficient that the victim perceives harm, even if that harm cannot be carried out. The offender must either intend or risk that their victim will feel threatened, or that force will be applied. A number of prosecutions have already been brought against people who have threatened to transmit COVID-19 by deliberately coughing on.
BTP has said that ‘no further action’ will be taken against the man – not even a charge of assault, let alone battery or worse.
Another station employee present during the same incident also contracted the virus.
This news feels all the more intolerable coming, as it does, on the same day that US authorities have charged Derek Chauvin with the third degree murder of George Floyd after Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck – and the state attorney has indicated that charges will be brought against other police officers who stood by during the incident.
Unlike the authorities in Minnesota, the UK government has made amply clear in its so-called coronavirus ‘strategy’ that it regards the lives of poor and ethnic minority people as a disposable commodity.
From the months-long failure to provide protective equipment or testing to Boris Johnson’s lethal instruction to people who can’t work from home – overwhelmingly the low-paid including many people of colour – to return to work the following morning, the Tories’ reckless and cavalier attitude to the safety and lives of working people on low incomes has amounted to a war on the working class. But with the Windrush scandal barely past and the government still deporting black people who’ve lived their lives here, who is surprised?
The fact that some of those who should be shouting loudest in defence of those people have been near-silent – and weak when they did speak up at all – must not be allowed to distract from the Tories’ guilt or the fundamental prejudice and bigotry of the Establishment in this country.
The failure to pursue even the most meagre justice for Belly Mujinga and her family – not even to take the matter to court and let a jury decide – is a racist one.
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