A scuffle between a police officer and a train passenger that went viral on social media happened after reports of a man coughing at other people, British Transport Police (BTP) have said.
The video, viewed more than 1.5 million times and retweeted more than 11,000 times, shows a masked officer grappling with a passenger who is not wearing a face covering.
An onlooker shouts that the passenger has “underlying health issues” in the clip, implying the issue is about wearing a face covering – which is now compulsory for public transport users unless they have a valid reason not to wear one, under the government’s coronavirus rules.
The video was widely shared by social media users angry at the officer for taking action.
Some Twitter users said the BTP it was “absolutely disgusting behaviour by your officer” while another asked for the force to release CCTV footage.
However, BTP said in a tweet replying to a post of the video that officers were instead responding to “reports of a man spitting at two passengers” on 2 September.
In the tweet, the BTP added: “A man has now been charged with a public order offence and assaulting an emergency worker.”
In a further statement, which Yahoo News UK was directed to after enquiring about the incident, the force said: “A man has been charged with threatening behaviour and assaulting a police officer on a Merseyrail train to Liverpool Lime Street station.
“The incident happened at around 3.20pm on Wednesday 2 September.
“Officers had responded to a report of a man coughing at two passengers.”
They said the man – Anthony Baldwin, 34, of Little Sutton, Cheshire – will appear in court in January 2021.
Yahoo News UK has taken the decision not to include the video in order not to prejudice any possible court proceedings.
When face coverings became mandatory in June, Assistant Chief Constable Sean O’Callaghan said enforcement would be an “absolute last resort” in the form of fines.
The BTP said officers support rail staff by “engaging with passengers, explaining the importance of preventing the spread of the virus”.
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