An Andover mother-of-three has been given a community order after spitting at a special constable while drunk during the pandemic.

Shelley Heal, of Leigh Road, was charged with assault by beating of an emergency worker, as well as resisting a constable in the execution of duty and drink driving following an incident on March 8, 2021. As she was being arrested for a drink driving offence, she spat into the face of SPC Jonathan Tippell as she was being handcuffed, which the officer described as ‘shocking’ and ‘disgusting’.

Having previously pleaded guilty to all three charges, the 43-year-old was handed a community order by Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court, which included compensation to SPC Tippell and carrying out 180 hours of unpaid work.

The incident took place earlier this year, when Heal was spotted driving ‘erratically’ at McDonalds on New Street, where a member of the public observed her drinking while using the drive-through.

Police arrived shortly afterwards at her Leigh Road address, where the prosecutor, Ms Cox, said Heal was “surprised” by their arrival.

“This quickly turned to anger,” she said.

Ms Cox told the court that Heal had “moved away from officers in a reckless manner” and would not provide a breath sample, during which time she called officers “c*nts” and “f*cking pigs”. As officers attempted to subdue her, she began “thrashing her arms around to try and not be arrested”, and while being handcuffed spat at SPC Tippell.

In a statement read out in court, SPC Tippell said Heal had “suddenly launched her head back and spat directly” at him, with the spit landing between his eyebrows and running into his eyes.

The special constable, who has volunteered for a year with Hampshire Constabulary, said that he was “shocked and disgusted” by the assault, describing the possible health concerns during the pandemic as “scary”.

“I am disgusted and saddened that another human being with emotions would stoop so low to spit at another,” he said. “I had to seek medical attention and have my eyes washed out for 30 minutes with saline, which is uncomfortable and an experience I would not recommend to anyone.”

After being taken to a police station, Heal provided a breath sample of 89 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, when the legal limit for driving is 35. She is said to have sobered up at the station, where she apologised for her actions and said she was “disgusted with herself”.

Mitigating, Ms Chessum said that her client and show “very great remorse” and had written a “very heartfelt” letter of apology to SPC Tippell.

She testified that Heal had “a history of abusing alcohol” but had been to rehab and had been abstinent for three years until 2020.

“She lost her ability to cope,” Ms Chessum said. “That was triggered by all manner of things including the death of a grandmother who raised her like a parent, and a worsening relationship with an ex-partner.”

She added that since being arrested, Heal had completed an induction course with Inclusion, an alcohol and drug recovery service, and was looking to complete further courses with them. One of her counsellors, Nick Goodenough, said she was “a model client”.

“Clearly she is doing what the court and probation service would hope people in her position would do”, Ms Chessum said.

She noted that though the Court of Appeal had ruled that spitting should be treated as assault, carrying more severe penalties, that the circumstances of the case did not merit imprisonment, calling for a community order.

Following deliberation, the magistrates agreed, sentencing her to a community order lasting 24 months. Heal will be fitted with an alcohol abstinence tag for 90 days, and must complete 25 rehabilitation activity days as directed.

She must also completed 180 hours of unpaid work, reduced by a quarter due to her guilty plea, and pay compensation of £200 to SPC Tippell. Due to the level of alcohol in the drink driving charge, she received a compulsory disqualification from the road for 22 months, which will be reduced if she completes an approved course.