A MAN spat at a police officer, told him "now you have got Covid" and proceeded to repeatedly cough at him.

Devante Durrant committed the "disgusting" assault on Sergeant Richard Stroud while officers attempted to restrain him at Bournemouth Custody.

The 25-year-old was not present at Bournemouth Crown Court on Thursday, February 25, having "voluntarily absented himself" but Judge Robert Pawson proceeded with sentencing and him for eight months.

After passing sentence, the judge issued a bench warrant for Durrant to be detained.

The court heard on October 16 last year that a police constable prevented Durrant from hitting his head when he appeared to topple backwards at the police station having been arrested on suspicion of a drug matter.

The 25-year-old was taken into a room to compose himself but when he became aware that his fingerprints were going to be taken he attempted to run towards the door.

At this point he was taken to the ground and two officers, including PS Stroud, tried to restrain him using "standard and legitimate" techniques.

Prosecuting, Barry McElduff told the court Durrant was told to calm down and stop struggling to which the defendant replied with expletive remarks.

"He then spat deliberately in the direction of Police Sergeant Stroud," said the prosecutor.

"The spittle landed on Police Sergeant Stroud's left leg.

"It is at this stage, having committed that assault, Mr Durrant stated 'now you have got Covid', before coughing repeatedly towards Police Sergeant Stroud and saying again 'now you have got Covid'."

Mr McElduff said at the time of the assault PS Stroud was not wearing any PPE as he became involved quickly to aid the police constable.

In police interview, Durrant admitted spitting at the police officer but claimed he did so because someone was leaning on his neck and he was in pain – allegations which the prosecution said were completely false.

Mr McElduff referenced a victim impact statement from PS Stroud, in which the officer said he has asthma and he has been particularly concerned the impact catching Covid-19 could have on him.

PS Stroud has a wife and children, who were unable to see family members for a period as a result of the incident.

"This incident has had wide reaching ramifications," the statement added.

Mitigating, Alison Marks said the defendant pleaded guilty to the offence of assaulting an emergency worker by beating him at an earlier hearing and he made admissions in interview at the police station.

"He did spit," she said. "Fortunately it did not touch the body of the officer in this case."

She said that at the time of the incident Durrant, of Grace Path, London, did not have Covid as far as he was aware, despite the remarks he made during the assault.

Judge Pawson described the defendant's criminal record as "unenviable", with a catalogue of offences dating back to 2010 and several examples of violence.

In 2018, he was handed a custodial sentence for a drug supply offence and he was out on licence for this when he assaulted PS Stroud.

The judge said the defendant knew about the sentencing hearing, both due to it being outlined to him at a previous hearing that he attended and through a conservation he had with Ms Marks on February 24.

Summarising the assault, Judge Pawson said: "There was a deliberate attempted to cause fear and serious harm."

He added that it was "hard to imagine a more serious example" of the emergency service assault offence which Durrant committed.