A WOMAN who spat at Bournemouth shop staff and threatened to give them coronavirus was warned that should she appear back in court for similar offences she will face a long time behind bars.

Madeleine Kreina Pankhurst was sentenced to 58 weeks in prison at Bournemouth Crown Court on Friday for three assault offences, theft, and breaching a criminal behaviour order and suspended sentences.

Judge Stephen Climie told her he had been “impressed” by a letter she had written to the court since admitting the crimes.

He said Pankhurst was “clearly an intelligent woman”, who had struggled with drug and alcohol problems.

However, he added that should her actions continue upon her release from prison, the court will have to lock her away for an extended period.

The 49-year-old appeared via video link from custody for Friday’s hearing over incidents at Holland & Barrett stores in Bournemouth town centre, Waitrose in Ashley Road, Parkstone, and Savers in the Sovereign Centre, Boscombe.

Prosecuting Jonathan Underhill told the court that on December 17, 2019, the defendant walked into the health food store in Old Christchurch Road, where she was recognised as a “persistent shoplifter”.

Pankhurst became abusive towards staff and when asked to leave, spat in the shop worker’s face, which left the victim “scared and worried”.

Her next crime took place on January 24 of this year when she stole £68.46 worth of meat from Waitrose.

In early April she was again verbally abusive at Savers before being escorted from the store, at which point she spat on the floor and said “I will give you the ******* virus”. She then spat towards the worker, who shut the door of the store.

The final offence took place at Holland & Barrett in Commercial Road on April 19.

Staff again recognised her as a previous shoplifter and when approached she spat in an employee’s face and hurled expletive remarks towards her.

This incident, deemed the most serious by Judge Climie given how coronavirus is transmitted and the timing of the crime, also involved the breach of a criminal behaviour order, which banned Pankhurst from entering retail stores in a designated area of Bournemouth.

Mitigating Richard Martin told the court Pankhurst’s case was a “particularly sad story”, with her being someone who had a “very enviable” upbringing.

He said she had an “entrenched drug addiction”, which she was making inroads against since being in custody.

Addressing the spitting, Mr Martin said the defendant was “utterly ashamed” of her actions.

In sentencing Pankhurst, of West Cliff Road, Westbourne, Judge Climie told her: “Should you find yourself back here for this type of offending, the court will be left having to lock you away for a much, much longer period to protect the public at large.”