A BALLYMENA man previously jailed for the attempted murder of a Catholic who pretended to be dead and heard his attackers discuss cutting up his body has now been given a four months prison term for coughing into the face of a policewoman after being asked if he had Covid symptoms.
Aaron Thomas White (49), of Lettercreeve, Ballymena, was sentenced at Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena, on Tuesday for assault on police, resisting another officer and being disorderly in Ballymena town centre on August 7 this year.
A prosecutor said at 1.30am police saw him having a verbal altercation with group of males at McDonald's restaurant in Ballymena.
Officers told him to go home but in the car park he started shouting abuse at officers and others.
He then moved to the middle of Galgorm Street and continued to shout abuse at the PSNI and passing vehicles.
When arrested he started to pull away and resisting, attempting to pull an officer to the ground.
When cautioned and and asked about Covid, the prosecutor said, White said he "had it all" and "proceeded to lean in and cough directly in a female officer's face from a distance of approximately six inches to one foot away from her".
A defence barrister said the incident was unacceptable and it was aggravated by happening during "times of Covid".
He said White had been under the influence of alcohol.
He said the defendant had kept out of trouble for a number of years.
District Judge Nigel Broderick noted the attempted murder conviction White had from 2007.
That was a reference to an incident in 2003 when White and his brother were convicted for trying to murder a Catholic man who was attacked with a knife, saucepan and ligature at Patrick Place in Ballymena in 2003.
The man only managed to escape by pretending he was dead.
He was cut 16 times, beaten, kicked and subjected to an attempted strangulation and told a court that he was told: "We are going to kill you, you fenian b*****d - you are going to die."
Regarding the August incident, the judge said: "This is disgraceful behavior. Police officers are public servants and to say to a female police officer when you asked quite legitimately 'do you have symptoms of Covid-19 from the last 14 days?', you answered yes and you coughed directly into her face. And she believes, with good reason, you did that deliberately".
The judge said that was in the context of somebody with a "very serious criminal record".
Jailing White, Judge Broderick added: "Individuals in society must realise that in the current pandemic to cough in this police officer's face is wholly unacceptable and must be dealt with firmly and rigorously by the courts".
White had bail fixed for appeal in the sum of £500.
Meanwhile, White denies charges of disorderly and indecent behaviour relating to Larne Road, Ballymena, on November 14 this year.
That case has been adjourned to December 21 to fix a date for a contest.
- Main picture: Aaron White.