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Man who coughed and spat at police in Armagh after claiming he had Covid given suspended sentence

The district judge said it was a 'despicable act' and told him: 'Spitting at an officer after claiming to be infected with a lethal disease, that is inhumane'

Covid police

A man who coughed and spat at police after claiming to have Covid has been handed a suspended prison sentence.

In sentencing the 20-year-old, the district judge commented: “On this occasion, I am going to give you what I see as a barely deserved chance.”

Che O’Connor, of The Old Fort, Derry/Londonderry, pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of Class C, three counts of assault on police and criminal damage at Armagh Magistrates’ Court, sitting at Newry, on Tuesday via videolink from Hydebank.

Prosecution outlined that on October 31, at 9.30am, police received a report from the defendant’s grandparents that their grandson had breached bail conditions.

Officers searched for O’Connor and were told by staff at O’Kane’s Service Station on the Moy Road, that they had observed a male jump over a rear wall after spotting police.

O’Connor was seen by police on McCrory Street but he managed to make off on foot.

He was later located on the Moy Road, near St Patrick’s Cathedral. Police noted that the defendant appeared under the influence; he was grinding his teeth and had white powder on his nose.

O’Connor was conveyed to Armagh Police Station, where a search was conducted during which pregabalin and diazepam tablets were located.

The defendant then became aggressive and headbutted a table in front of him three times.

An officer placed his hands on O’Connor’s shoulders to prevent him continuing, but the defendant then swung his head back connecting with the constable’s chest.

O’Connor shouted that he had Covid before proceeding to cough and spit at one officer.

Police then moved to restrain the defendant and as they did he began to kick out, connecting with the knee of one constable.

He had to be taken to the ground and carried to an inquiries office. Limb restraints were applied with O’Connor being conveyed to Lurgan Custody Suite.

Here, the defendant was assessed by a medical officer before being transferred to Craigavon Area Hospital.

He was returned to Lurgan Custody Suite for interview.

During this O’Connor made full admissions to the possession and the spitting.

He apologised, saying he had done it out of spite and had not been displaying any Covid symptoms.

Defence barrister Stephen Chapman stated: “The most serious problem would be the spitting, which is always treated by the court very seriously.

“He made admissions to the offences during interview, fairly quickly after the offence, and he established that he was not displaying any symptoms.”

He added: “I would ask that your worship take into account his early guilty plea, his admissions during interview and the fact that he has already spent some time in custody.”

District Judge Paul Copeland stated: “I have taken a view that this has crossed the custody threshold. He should be looking down the line at custody of eight or nine months for this despicable act.

“These men were doing their job, he reacted like a crazy man. He lashed out at them but thankfully they were a bit more nimble on their feet than him.”

He continued: “Spitting at an officer after claiming to be infected with a lethal disease, that is inhumane. Mr O’Connor, if you appear again for something like this you will be going to jail for a long time.

“On this occasion, I am going to give you what I see as a barely deserved chance.”

O’Connor was sentenced to a total of eight months in prison suspended for two years and was ordered to pay a fine of £600, along with the offender’s levy of £15.

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