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Threat to spit at police ends with jail term

Warwick Crown Court
Warwick Crown Court

A MAN who threatened to spit at police officers, claiming to have coronavirus, hepatitis and Aids, has been jailed for ten months.

James Magee appeared in court by video link from prison after pleading guilty to three charges of common assault on emergency workers. The 53-year-old – in a wheelchair after contracting MRSA in a hospital operation in November – shouted abuse and swore at passers-by in Stratford on the afternoon of 3rd April.

Magee, of Alcester Road, admitted using threatening words and behaviour during the case at Warwick Crown Court. The incident began when Magee struggled to get money from a bank because of restricted opening hours.

A police officer saw him having a row with a man and warned him to stop swearing. A few minutes later Magee shouted at a man walking his dog in Sheep Street: “I hope you get the virus.”

He then went to the gardens near Cox’s Yard, where he abused a woman with two children. Prosecutor Lal Amarasinghe said that when the officer told him he was under arrest, Magee “became violent and tried to headbutt him and to spit at him”.

He threatened to stab the officer, telling him “You’re a dead man” before being put into a police vehicle. There he threatened to spit at officers and bite them, claiming to have coronavirus, Aids and hepatitis. He tried to bite an officer’s hand, so a spit hood was put on him.

Defending, Nick Devine said: “By far and away the best mitigation is that he entered his guilty pleas in the magistrates’ court.” Previous offences included an assault on a police officer in 2016, but were mostly for shoplifting, Mr Devine added. He said Magee found being wheelchair-bound “extremely frustrating”, adding: “Frustration was at the heart of this behaviour. He has been struggling to get by and he was having difficulty getting his finances sorted out, and his frustration boiled over.”

Judge Andrew Lockhart QC told Magee that the Court of Appeal had ruled that a threat to spit in the current coronavirus crisis was an aggravating feature. He added: “I propose to pass a deterrent sentence. “This was done in the context of the lockdown. It was an offence committed against police officers working in the community in these extraordinary times. “The message must go out loud and clear that the court will not hesitate to support officers as they go about their work to keep others safe. Those who abuse that will receive swift and condign punishment.”

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