Man avoids jail after coughing at policeman and claiming he had covid during height of pandemic

A Wearside man has been slammed by a judge for a “momentary idiotic” act of coughing in the direction of a policeman at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

By Gareth Crickmer
Sunday, 25th October 2020, 9:23 am

Liam Mitchinson, 31, did so at the custody desk at South Shields police station on Saturday, April 4 – just days after the national lockdown started.

Mitchinson, of Windermere Crescent, Shiney Row, also told Pc David Metcalf he had the virus, even though he did not.

In a victim statement read to magistrates in South Tyneside, the officer said he was disgusted by Mitchinson’s behaviour, which he described as “abhorrent”.

The incident happened at South Shields Police Station on Saturday, April 4.

Even Mitchinson’s defence solicitor admitted his client’s actions were so serious they could land him in prison.

District Judge Kathryn Meek refrained from that course – but said she concurred entirely with PC Metcalf’s description as would “any reasonable person”.

Sentencing him to an 18-month community order and 240 hours of unpaid work, she said: “I agree with everything the officer says on that day.

“This is an assault that was at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when people were rightly concerned. It was rife in this area.

“It was a momentary idiotic but unpleasant thing that you did.”

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Prosecutor Iain Jordan said pallet constructor Mitchinson had been arrested on a matter from which no criminal charges arose, with the assault following.

Alaister Naismith, defending, said: “He was arrested for an unrelated matter. He describes that he was drunk at the time.

“He said he had Covid at the time, but he didn’t have Covid and he knew that. It was belligerence.

“He has one previous assault on his record but nothing against an emergency worker. This was somewhat out of character.”

The court heard agency worker Mitchinson, who pleaded guilty to common assault of an emergency worker, owed £847 in fines and other costs.

Judge Meek ordered him to pay £150 court costs and a £90 victim surcharge, to be added to his existing fines account and to be paid at £10 a week.

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