Man jailed for coughing on police has sentence doubled

Appeal court judges said Iain Lindsay's original sentence was 'unduly lenient'.

A man jailed after coughing on two police officers during the coronavirus pandemic has had his sentence more than doubled after appeal court judges ruled it was “unduly lenient”.

Iain Lindsay admitted culpably and recklessly coughing in the faces of two police constables “to the danger of their life” at the charge bar at a police station in Inverness in April.

He was not displaying any symptoms of Covid 19 but both officers were left alarmed and distressed.

Lindsay was jailed for four months, with the sheriff sentencing him on the basis the offence was not planned, was completed in seconds and was not accompanied by any threats or aggression.

It was ruled the objective risk to the officers, given the very low rate of Covid 19 in the Highlands, was very small at that time.

But the Crown appealed against the sentence, saying it was “unduly lenient”.

Appeal court judges in Edinburgh agreed the sentence was too lenient and extended it to ten months.

In their judgment, published on Tuesday, they stated the offence was “clearly deliberate, repeated towards the second officer and designed to cause significant fear and alarm.”

The judges said they did not believe the fact the respondent was not displaying Covid 19 symptoms was a “factor in his favour” as there appears to be a real risk the condition may be transmitted by those who are asymptomatic carriers of it, even if the risk may be a small one.

Their judgment states: “The sheriff did not take sufficient account of the fact that the charge to which the respondent pled guilty was of culpably and recklessly endangering the lives of the officers, even if that endangerment was, as is often the case, potential rather than actual.

“The alarm and distress suffered by the officers was certainly real.

“Had the sheriff taken full account of the appellant’s record, his deliberate and calculated actions, the nature of the offence and the general risk involved, we cannot see that she could have selected a starting point of less than 15 months.

“We therefore consider that the sentence selected was unduly lenient, in being outwith the range of reasonable sentences available to the sheriff.”

The sheriff imposed a sentence of six months’ imprisonment, which she reduced by a third to four months to reflect the guilty plea.

The appeal court judges increased the sentence to 15 months and applied a discount of a third, bringing the total sentence to ten months. 

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