Man who coughed at police during drunk and disorderly arrest sent to jail
By Court reporter | 14th April 2020
A 24 year old man who coughed and spat at a policeman after he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly in Cheltenham Town Centre on Easter Sunday has been jailed for 17 weeks.
Magistrates in Cheltenham heard that Luke Beresford, of High Street, Cheltenham, was topless and drinking in the Sunday sunshine when he got into 'a physical altercation' with someone and was arrested.
Prosecutor Rachael Scott told the court: "He was handcuffed a taken to a nearby police van with the intention of being taken into custody.
"Beresford was asked by PC Bennett if he had symptoms of Covid-19 while he sat in the rear cell of the police van. As he was asked this he deliberately coughed into the face of the officer and then began to bring up the phlegm into his mouth and tilted his head back as if about to spit.
"PC Bennett immediately attempted to slam the van door shut but Beresford stopped it with his foot and the officer resorted to hitting him in the face to stop him spitting at him.
"Beresford then spat phlegm and blood on the van floor."
The court heard that in his interview with police Beresford explained that he was walking to his friend's memorial at Sandford Park in the centre of town on the anniversary of his death.
He admitted that he had been drunk and disorderly and that he might have coughed when the officers were talking to him in the van.
Beresford pleaded guilty to common assault on PC Bennett, an emergency worker, on Sunday, April 12.
Last week at the same court Jonathan Brunsdon, 43, of Mason Road, Stroud, was jailed for 20 weeks for coughing in the face of a paramedic and telling him, "Ha Ha, you got it now."
Beresford was initially unrepresented at today's hearing when he appeared via video link from Gloucester Police's custody suite. He was told by District Judge David Parsons that he was facing a substantial period in custody.
Judge Parsons said to Beresford: "You are at risk of going to prison immediately because the offence is so serious. He adjourned the hearing for a short time to allow the defendant to seek legal advice."
Solicitor Miguel Blanco then represented Beresford at the resumed hearing.
He said Beresford had got 'quite drunk' because it was the anniversary of his friend's death and he was suffering from depression.
"This was the first time he had been out since the lockdown began. He is genuinely sorry for what he has done and he states that he only spat out the phlegm after the van door had been shut," Mr Blanco said.
"The assault itself was the fear of it as he moved his head back.
"He was working until the coronavirus lockdown started, but has since lost that job."
Judge Parsons said: "These matters of coughing into the faces of emergency workers are taken very seriously by the courts.
"Your actions were disgusting and no doubt caused stress to the police officers during these difficult times.
The courts will be supporting the emergency workers who are subjected to such actions.
"I therefore sentence you to 17 weeks in prison. I make no orders for compensation or court costs but you have to pay a victim surcharge of £122."
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