The partner of an NHS worker who spat at an asthmatic police officer after claiming he had coronavirus has been jailed.

Osman Barry’s solicitor told Swindon Magistrates’ Court this afternoon his client deeply regretted the incident.

But Judge Peter Crabtree told the 25-year-old his actions had been dangerous and were too serious to warrant a suspended sentence.

Prosecutor Keith Ballinger said Barry had been picked up by police in Calne. Officers suspected him of being involved in a County Lines drug gang.

Concerned he may have plugged drugs in his bottom, he was detained in the cells at Melksham police station and kept under constant watch for 52 hours.

Barry became increasingly agitated. He told custody officers he had coronavirus but officers believed it was a ploy to get taken off 24-hour watch. The prisoner was seen by a medical professional, who told police to take extra precautions.

When Sgt Neil Duffin went to the man’s cell he came up to the cell door and, despite being pushed back by the officer, looked straight at the sergeant and spat at him. The spittle hit the officer, a chronic asthma sufferer, in the arm and on his clothing.

Interviewed by police about the spitting incident, Barry claimed he had had blood in his mouth and spat accidentally at the officer while he was being restrained.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald:

Appearing before the court via video link from HMP Bristol, Barry, of Phillimore Road, Birmingham, changed his plea to admit a single charge of assaulting an emergency worker by beating.

Mahmood Khan, defending, said his client was remorseful: “He accepts that whilst at the police station he spat in the general direction of the officer and ultimately the spit landed on the officer’s arm. He regrets his actions.”

He looked after his 18-month-old child at home in Birmingham. His partner worked for the NHS. He said Barry had been in Calne to do some shopping for his 50-year-old father, who lives in the Wiltshire town and was self-isolating at home.

Jailing him for three months, Judge Crabtree told Barry: “It may well be that you have learnt your lesson, I accept that.

“I have no doubt that in the current environment, spitting in the direction of an officer and hitting him on the arm given his vulnerabilities is simply too serious for anything other than an immediate custodial sentence.”

He added: “You were frustrated by being detained. At one stage the sergeant, Sgt Duffin, told you to move back into your cell and pushed you back.

“You didn’t and you spat at him, you say in his general direction. That is dangerous. It is unequivocally the case that it hit him on the arm.

“It is plain that Sgt Duffin is someone who is vulnerable but still working for everyone’s benefit. He is an asthmatic and at high risk. It is easy to envisage the very, very real concern he must have felt.”