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Belfast judge wants spitting suspects to face more serious charges during coronavirus pandemic

Defendants accused of spitting on police officers during the Covid-19 crisis are being "woefully undercharged", a Northern Ireland judge has said.

District Judge Mark Hamill suggested assault suspects should be prosecuted for more serious offences as he jailed one man and refused bail to another.

Neil Henry, 26, received a four-month prison sentence for disorderly behaviour and assaulting a PSNI constable.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard he attempted to bite and spit on an officer called to his hostel address at Divis Street in the city on March 25.

Defence lawyer Eoghan McKenna confirmed his client's guilty plea, adding that the incident developed over accommodation issues.

Henry was warned that any repeat behaviour in future could see him facing up to a year behind bars.

Meanwhile, 31-year-old Bryan Glenn appeared at court for allegedly targeting officers following a disturbance outside his ex-partner's home.

Glenn, of Strand Avenue in Millisle, Co Down, is accused of kicking a front door at the woman's house in east Belfast after travelling there on Tuesday night.

Opposing bail, a PSNI constable claimed: "He then kicked an officer and spat in another officer's face."

Glenn is accused of two counts of assault on police, criminal damage and disorderly behaviour at Brandon Parade in the city.

"This is another example of woeful undercharging," Mr Hamill said.

"In the current climate, to spit on someone's face is either (attempted) actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm. Convey that to the PPS (Public Prosecution Service) please."

Following defence submissions that Glenn had "blacked out" during the incident, the judge questioned why he was even in Belfast amid the current rules on social distancing.

"The allegation is in the course of a Covid-19 pandemic he spat at a police officer," Mr Hamill reiterated.

Glenn denied any spitting, and instead claimed he had been put in handcuffs while suffering from a cold.

His barrister added: "He's suggesting his hands were behind his back when arrested, and he wasn't able to cover his mouth."

Refusing bail, however, the judge emphasised: "Anybody allegedly behaving like this in the course of a pandemic, I'm afraid, is going to be remanded in custody.

"There's the deterrent for everybody else."


Belfast Telegraph