An Eden Valley man who deliberately and violently coughed into the face of a police officer during lockdown after saying “Covid-19, yeah” has been spared an immediate prison sentence.
Cumbria police took up the task of locating Ralph Brook after his Volkswagen Passat had failed to stop for Lancashire officers as he headed home to Swindale Cottage in Brough.
In the early hours of May 1, they went to his house where he was uncooperative and then became “extremely volatile” as PC Iain Parsons produced his Taser device as a precaution. Brook, 46, was escorted outside and then said “Covid-19 yeah”. “He turned his upper body and face towards the officer,” prosecutor Karen Brooks told Carlisle Crown Court. “The defendant coughed violently and deliberately into the face of the officer.”
When interviewed, Brook told an officer his mother was very ill in hospital with coronavirus.
He admitted assaulting an emergency worker. He also admitted four shoplifting crimes, and driving twice while disqualified and without insurance, all of his offence being committed in breach of a suspended jail term imposed by a judge last year.
Recorder Anna Vigars QC heard Brook was the sole carer for two children, had otherwise made good progress under the 2019 court order, and spent 72 days remanded in custody. She also considered sentencing guidance handed down amid the current pandemic.
A 28-week jail term was suspended for a year. Brook must complete 120 hours’ unpaid work, a four-month night-time curfew and was banned from driving for 18 months. Recorder Vigars concluded it would be “unjust” to activate the suspended sentence.
She acknowledged his mother’s ill health. “But knowing what you knew, personally, about how serious coronavirus is, the idea that you thought it sensible to cough in the face of a police officer and say anything about COVID-19 is extraordinary,” she told him. “You above all of us know how dangerous illness is.
Of the police, she added: “They were entitled to carry out their job without the risk of a life-threatening illness being accentuated or elevated or increased by somebody doing something as deliberate as coughing in their faces.”