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4th Jul, 2022

Coronavirus-claiming wheelchair-bound man who threatened to spit at police officers jailed

Ian Hughes 21st Apr, 2020 Updated: 21st Apr, 2020

A WHEELCHAIR-BOUND man who abused police officers in Stratford town centre and threatened to spit at them, claiming to have Covid-19, hepatitis and Aids, has been jailed.

James Magee appeared at Warwick Crown Court over a video link from prison after pleading guilty to three charges of common assaults on emergency workers.

THe 53-year-old, of Alcester Road, Stratford, who also admitted a public order offence of using threatening words and behaviour, was jailed for ten months.

Prosecutor Lal Amarasinghe said at 2.15pm on April 3, Magee became agitated and began swearing because he was having issues getting money from a bank because of restricted hours as a result of the coronavirus measures.

A Pc Birch who saw him did a loop, and when he returned to the scene he saw Magee having an altercation with another man, so approached him and warned him to stop swearing.

Magee reacted by using his scarf to try to tie himself to a bollard, at which the officer told him not to be so childish and to behave himself.

Pc Birch left to carry on with his duties, but a few minutes later Magee was involved in an argument with a man walking his dog in Sheep Street, during which he was heard to shout: “I hope you get the virus.”

After continuing to shout abuse for about five minutes, Magee made his way to the gardens near Cox’s Yard where he began to hurl similar abuse at a woman with two small children.

So someone called the police, and when Pc Birch told him he was under arrest, Magee ‘became violent and tried to headbutt him and to spit at him,’ said Mr Amarasinghe.

As he threatened to stab Pc Birch, telling him ‘you’re a dead man,’ other officers arrived, and Pc Laura Thomason spoke to him to try to calm him down.

Magee was put in a police vehicle, but on the way to a police station he threatened officers that he would spit at them and bite them, claiming to have coronavirus, Aids and hepatitis C.

He tried to bite one officer’s hand, so a spit hood was put on him for the rest of the journey, added Mr Amarasinghe.

Nick Devine, defending, said: “By far and away the best mitigation is that he entered his guilty pleas in the magistrates’ court.”

His previous offending, although it included an assault on a police officer in 2016, was mostly for shoplifting.

“Last November he went into hospital for what should have been a routine procedure, but he contracted MRSA, as a result of which he has been left wheelchair-bound for the last five months.

“He has found it extremely frustrating, and 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: “At this time this country faces an unprecedented threat from the Covid-19 virus. The front line of our fight against the threat are the emergency services.

“Policing by consent is at the heart of this. Those men and women in the van of the battle will have the proper and timely support of the court.

“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.

“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.

“In my judgement I must pass a deterrent sentence, a sentence that will send out a clear message that this type of conduct is entirely unacceptable. Only immediate custody is sufficient to mark the gravity of this offending.”

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