Wpc handed £1,000 after suspect spits at her

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Police union bosses have praised magistrates who awarded a female police officer £1,000 for being spat upon.

Jobless father-of-two Lee Birtles spat at the officer while being restrained at a police station, Barnsley magistrates heard.

It is the highest award the bench could order and even the local Police Federation has described the penalty as “quite astonishing.”

Birtles, 33, narrowly avoided prison after he admitted assaulting Pc Sarah Botham who feared she may have contracted hepatitis after swallowing some spittle during the incident. Fortunately for the officer tests later proved negative.

Neil Bowles, South Yorkshire Police Federation chairman said: “I personally have not come across an award as high as this.

“Spitting is a nasty thing and I think it is more the worrying delay in waiting for test results that have gone towards the amount awarded.

“We need the courts to issue a deterrent to make people understand the consequences of their actions.

“Spitting is as vile as a physical hands-on assault and officers should not have to put up with this. We would arrest anybody for assault if they spit at somebody.

“I applaud the magistrates. I hope it will make others think twice about it. I used to work in Barnsley and the magistrates there seem to come up with appropriate sentences.”

Birtles had been arrested for breaching the peace and officers were trying to prevent him hurting himself at Barnsley police station.

Matthew Shepherd, defending, said Birtles was very sorry.

Presiding magistrate Carole Howard said Birtles had come close to being jailed and she had been “distressed” to hear about his behaviour.

As well as ordering £1,000 compensation, Birtles was handed a six-month curfew and told to pay £85 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

Birtles, of Rock Street, Barnsley said afterwards he had not expected to pay so much compensation and claimed he had not intended to spit at the officer.

He said he had been pepper-sprayed as he was being restrained. He said: “I was spitting to get it out of my mouth.”