The judge at Warwick Crown Court sentenced her to eight months for the assault, consecutive to one-month for two thefts, which she also admitted, and two months of a suspended sentence she was subject to at the time.

Prosecutor Ian Ball said that on 24th April she went into the Waterstones shop in Stratford-upon-Avon town centre carrying two bags.

When she left without paying for anything she was also carrying a Waterstones canvas bag crammed with Lego kits and children’s books worth a total of £122.89.

Caines was stopped by security staff outside, and in one of the other bags she was found to have children’s books and other items from the nearby W H Smith store.

She insisted she had paid for the items, having just been paid, and was getting things for a child’s birthday.

But when the CCTV cameras at W H Smith were checked they showed her putting a large number of children’s books into the bag and leaving without paying for them, said Mr Ball.

When the police arrived, Caines was in an alleyway smoking a roll-up cigarette, and she began to remonstrate with them, pushing them away and shouting obscenities.

She was handcuffed with her hands in front so she could continue to smoke in the hope that that would help her calm down.

But Caines managed to slip one of her hands out of the cuffs, and when the officer grabbed her arm and flicked the cigarette away, she put her lighter in her mouth.

So he retrieved it, and as he turned to pass it to a colleague Caines punched him in the ribs.

“He took hold of her arm and, as he was giving her the police caution, she leant forward and bit him on the right forearm,” said Mr Ball.

“Her teeth had broken the skin and there were spots of blood.”

Caines kicked and struggled when she was put to the ground, and continued to do so after being put into a police van.

She was known to have suffered from hepatitis C, so the officer was very concerned about the bite and had to have blood tests.

Caines had been due to be sentenced in mid-June, but the case was adjourned on that occasion to await the test results.

Mr Ball said the results showed that hepatitis B and C antibodies had not been detected, but it could develop up to three months after being infected.

“So it is a case of so far, so good. But the incident only happened on the 24th April, so it would not be until the end of July that the final all-clear could be given.”

He added that Caines had 37 previous convictions, mainly for shoplifting, but also including an earlier assault on a police officer, and she had been given a 12-week suspended sentence for shoplifting in January.

Nick Devine, defending, said: “For the first 22 years of her life Florence Caines led a law-abiding life, but she was unfortunately in a relationship with a violent and abusive partner.

They had a young child who was taken away by Social Services, and it’s at that point that her life becomes a downward spiral of drink and drugs.

“In the sober light of day she is remorseful and apologetic,” said Mr Devine, adding: “The best information we have at the moment is that there has been no disease transmission.”