Man charged with assault of top UK medical officer

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FILE – In this file photo dated Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England arrives at the back entrance to Downing Street in London. Police are investigating an incident captured on selfie video seeming to show two men harassing Professor Whitty in a London park. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, FILE)

LONDON (AP) — Police in London said Friday that a 23-year-old man has been charged with the “common assault” of England’s chief medical officer in a park in central London.

The Metropolitan Police said Lewis Hughes was charged with common assault on Thursday evening and will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on July 30.

An investigation was launched after Prof. Chris Whitty, one of the most high-profile scientists during the coronavirus pandemic, was accosted by two men in St. James’s Park on Sunday evening.

The incident, which was captured in video footage and shared on social media, showed Whitty struggling to get away from the pair, who appeared to be manhandling him while trying to take a selfie.

The incident was widely condemned, including by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who described the pair as “thugs.”

It is not the first time Whitty has been forced to endure public harassment during the pandemic.

Whitty has had a leading role in devising lockdown restrictions and has regularly appeared alongside Johnson and the government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, in coronavirus-related press briefings.

While he has undoubtedly become one of the most trusted voices, he has faced the fury of lockdown skeptics.

Last month, he was confronted in a street in Oxford by a man accusing him of lying to the public about the virus, while in February a man accosted him near Parliament. Both incidents were filmed on mobile phones.

Worries about his security have led to calls for Whitty, and others, to receive police protection.

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