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Chris Whitty: Man charged with 'common assault' of England's chief medical officer

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By Euronews with AP
Professor Chris Whitty attends a coronavirus press conference at 10 Downing Street in London.
Professor Chris Whitty attends a coronavirus press conference at 10 Downing Street in London.   -   Copyright  Leon Neal/Pool via AP
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Police in London have charged a 23-year-old man with the "common assault" of England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty.

An investigation was launched after a video showed Whitty being accosted by two men in St. James's Park on Sunday evening.

Footage showed Professor Whitty struggling to free himself, as the men appeared to manhandle him while trying to take a selfie.

The epidemiologist and physician has been a key figure in the UK's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and has regularly appeared alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson at televised press conferences.

On Thursday evening, the Metropolitan police confirmed they have charged a man over the incident.

"Officers spoke to the victim and checked his welfare, he had not suffered any injuries" a police statement read.

"Officers subsequently reviewed video footage which emerged after the incident and the matter was referred to the Public Order Crime Team. Enquiries continue."

PM Johnson has condemned the video and described the men as "thugs" on Twitter. The suspect is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on July 30.

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

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.