A MAN who deliberately coughed in a paramedic’s face after telling him he had Covid-19 has been jailed for 20 weeks by a judge who warned that anyone who behaves in the same way can expect to go to prison.
Jonathan Brunsdon, 43, of Mason Road, Stroud, told the paramedic “Ha Ha, you got it now,” after coughing at him.
At Cheltenham Magistrates Court yesterday District Judge Joti Bopa Rai told Brunsdon that his punishment had to be a deterrent to others considering the same course of action.
She said: “We are in the middle of a massive pandemic and any assault on an emergency worker is taken seriously by this court.”
Brunsdon appeared via video link from Gloucestershire Police’s custody suite and admitted a charge of common assault by threatening to infect the paramedic with the coronavirus by coughing in his face.
The court was told that the incident on March 28 began at 10.45pm on the Saturday evening when two paramedics were called to Mason Road because a friend of Brunsdon’s required medical treatment as he was showing symptoms of coronaviris.
Prosecutor Cathy Thornton said: “The paramedics donned their personal safety equipment, entered the property and during their visit they had some communication with Brunsdon which was initially helpful – but a short while later descended into criticism and name calling.”
She explained that after dealing with the patient they began assuring Brunsdon and others about his medical condition when the paramedic Brunsdon were face to face, only a foot away from each other.
“This resulted in Brunsdon breathing heavily and coughing into the face of Mr Helbrow and he said to him, ‘Ha Ha, you got it now’, said the prosecutor.
“He then attempted to grab the paramedic’s face mask, but was prevented from doing so. However no direct physical contact between them was actually made.”
The court was told that at this point the paramedics immediately left, leaving their equipment behind.
Police officers, wearing protective clothing then entered the property and arrested Brunsdon, who gave officers conflicting evidence about the circumstances of his coughing during his transportation to Gloucestershire Police’s custody suite.
Holly Burton, defending said: “Brunsdon accepts that his actions cross the custody threshold and he realises that a period in prison is inevitable.
“Brunsdon has a long standing issue with alcohol dependency, for which he has never received any help.
“This court process has been a very sobering experience for him, but it has afforded him time to reflect on his unacceptable behaviour on the night in question, but on his life generally, which has deteriorated over time due to his alcohol dependency.
“However he has found his time in custody beneficial as he realises he needs help to address his alcohol addiction and says he will enlist in the help of probation on his release from prison.
“He wishes to apologise for his abhorrent behaviour on that night. His mother and his niece are both NHS workers and he genuinely appreciates the hard work that all key workers do.”
Judge Bopa Rai said to Brunsdon: “You’ve changed your plea from your original plea of not guilty today, thus saving your victim from giving evidence at a trial.
“This charge was brought about by the government to stop people assaulting those who work in the emergency sector.
“And because of the recent legislation this offence can be dealt with at the magistrates court or at the crown court. I have sufficient powers to sentence you at this court.
“I am sentencing you to a 20-week prison sentence. This will send out the message that will deter others from considering the same course of action.
“In your case, you even had the gall to say to the paramedic, ‘ha ha you got it now’, nobody should be put in that position. You even told us that family members work in the NHS, so you should know better.
“It looks like your alcohol dependency clouded your judgement on the day.”
The district judge also ordered that Brunsdon should pay £100 compensation to his victim.
“I hope you’ll use your time in custody effectively and reflect on what you have done,” concluded Judge Bopa Rai.