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Coronavirus (COVID-19): the policing response and what you need to know

Jail term for man who referred to COVID-19 during racial abuse of council worker

A 35-year-old man has been jailed today for racially abusing a member of staff at council offices in Bristol accusing them of bringing the COVID-19 virus into the country.

Police officers were called to the offices in Temple Street on Friday 20 March after Marcus Spiteri, of no fixed address, became abusive after being told the building was on lockdown due to the current health crisis.

On his way out of the building, Spiteri spoke to a member of staff who he mistook to be Chinese and said told him to “go home”, saying he’d brought the COVID-19 virus into the country.

Following an investigation, officers attended a hotel in Bristol city centre on Thursday 2 April to arrest Spiteri for this offence, as well as in connection with a recall to prison.

Spiteri ran out of his hotel room and shut an officer’s hand in the door, causing tissue damage and a fracture. He was later detained in a lift and further arrested for assaulting an emergency worker.

Spiteri appeared at Bristol Magistrates’ Court this morning by video link and admitted the charges against him. He was jailed for eight weeks for the racially aggravated public order incident and 21 weeks for actual bodily harm caused to the officer. He will serve the sentences consecutively.

In a separate incident, a 48-year-old man was jailed for coughing at two officers after telling them he had COVID-19. It happened while he was being booked into custody following his arrest for a domestic abuse offence. He also assaulted a third officer.

The District Judge said the offences committed by Richard Michael Lamb (pictured above), from Hartcliffe, were “mean and unforgivable” in light of the ongoing health emergency.

He was jailed for a total of 52 weeks in total at Bristol Magistrates’ Court for three counts of assaulting an emergency worker and two counts of assaulting his partner.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh said: “Those who think it’s acceptable to assault officers during the course of their duty can expect to be sent to prison, as has been shown in these two cases.

“The officers were protecting the public by arresting people who’d carried out domestic abuse and hate crime offences and they should not be subjected to this disgusting and degrading behaviour by a criminal minority.”