A man has been charged with common assault after chief medical officer Chris Whitty was accosted in St James’s Park in London.
Footage of an incident in which two men grabbed and jeered at the chief medic was published on social media on Tuesday, prompting calls for the police to take action and even for police protection for the official.
Lewis Hughes, 23, of Wigton Way in Romford, was charged yesterday evening over the incident. He will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 30 July 30, the Metropolitan Police said.
The force said officers had spoken to Whitty and checked on his welfare, before reviewing the video footage.
"At approximately 19:20hrs on Sunday, 27 June officers in St James's Park became aware of a man being accosted by a group of men," the Met said in a statement.
"Officers subsequently reviewed video footage which emerged after the incident and the matter was referred to the Public Order Crime Team. Enquiries continue."
Hughes, an estate agent, told The Sun he had lost his job after the video went viral.
He told the newspaper that he had attended an anti-vax march and had been drinking before spotting the CMO in the central London park, and decided he “wanted a selfie with Chris Whitty to show my mum”.
Jonathan Chew, the second man who appeared in the video, added that he did not believe “we did anything wrong”.
Earlier this week, after the video was shared on social media, the prime minister, Boris Johnson said on Twitter that he was “shocked at seeing the despicable harassment” Whitty had experienced.
"Our hard-working public servants should not have to face this kind of intimidation on our streets and we will not tolerate it,” he added.
The PM’s spokesperson later added: “It’s completely unacceptable for a hard working public servant like the chief medical officer and people who are working to save lives in the pandemic to face intimidation, harassment and abuse.
"This is a matter for the police and you’ll have seen they are investigating.
“We keep security under constant review but I’m not going to be commenting on specific arrangements for individuals.”
This is the latest in a number of incidents in which Whitty, who has been one of the most prominent civil servants involved in the response to the coronavirus pandemic, has been publicly accosted.
Home secretary Priti Patel told Times Radio this week: “It is terrible to see such an important public figure, someone that day in day out has been serving our country in the way in which he has to keep us safe being subject to just appalling abuse.”
Asked if Whitty should be provided a police escort, Patel said: "I can’t speak about that, but it's important that we make sure that Chris is given the right kind of support.”