A MAN who spat at a police officer amidst the Covid-19 pandemic has avoided immediate prison time.

Lyndon Turner was arrested in Salisbury on November 8, last year, on suspicion of drug offences and put in the back of a police van. He threatened to harm himself and banged his head on the cage.

The 38-year-old was PAVA sprayed, and in the moments following drew back phlegm and spat at PC Ben Dooley.

The spit landed on PC Dooley’s body armour, he later said he had “never been so insulted and worthless”.

Prosecutor Matthew Jackson told Winchester Crown Court that “due to Covid-19 he (the officer) was concerned about risk of infection”.

Turner, of Pullman Drive, Bemerton Heath, Salisbury, was found guilty of assault by beating of an emergency, and today (Friday) was sentenced to six months imprisonment suspended for 18 months.

In sentencing, Judge Susan Evans QC said: “You pulled back enough phlegm in your throat to do so, it is only fortunate that the spit landed on his body armour rather than his face.

“To spit at someone is a really disgusting form of assault, it is humiliating, people worry that they might contract a disease, it is particularly worrying at the time of Covid-19.

“He would rather be punched than spat at, it is no part of any police officer’s job to be spat at.”

Turner was also sentenced for stealing £24 worth of items from Poundland in Andover on December 18, 2020. No further penalty was imposed.

Mr Jackson said: “The defendant had selected a number of items that were placed into carrier bags. One item that was eventually stolen was an air freshener with a value of £12.”

The theft was spotted by town rangers who managed to recover most of the items, and Turner was taken into the store’s kitchen before police arrived.

“The defendant picked up a large blade kitchen knife that was next to him. He didn’t threaten anyone except from himself. He did say he was going to hurt himself,” Mr Jackson added. Turner was eventually talked down by officers.

In mitigation, Francisca Da Costa said the was done in a reckless manner than being aimed at PC Dooley. She continued: “Mr Turner was upset about his arrest and being in the van and he spat. When Mr Turner spat he had his eyes shut.

“It was one spit, a relatively small amount, it did not land in the officer’s face and the PC did not know he had been spat at until he was later told by his colleagues.”

The court heard that Turner suffers from significant mental health difficulties but has now started engaging with the help offered. He has also managed to find stable accommodation after living on the streets and in bed and breakfasts for 10 years.