A girl of 13 has appeared in court for assaulting a police sergeant by spitting in his face at Spalding Railway Station.
The assault on Sgt Nick Waters has seen Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner repeat his support for the appropriate use of “spit guards” – see-through hoods that are placed over offenders’ heads – should the Chief Constable decide to introduce them.
A Youth Court sitting in Boston on Tuesday heard police were called to a report of young people running on railway lines shortly before 11pm on Saturday, March 11.
Nick Todd, prosecuting, said Sgt Waters wanted to usher the 13-year-old girl away from the station.
He said: “During the altercation that then transpired, she spat in his face and the spittle went into his mouth as well as his eyes and the rest of his face.”
Mr Todd said the girl was “very rude” to the officer and was arrested.
He said the girl wasn’t cautioned because, while being processed at the police station, she repeated the abuse.
“I think the police felt, as she showed no remorse, she would be charged,” he said.
The court heard the girl had no previous convictions or cautions.
Solicitor Phillipa Chatterton, mitigating, told the court: “My client says the police officer shouted at her and was quite aggressive in his manner.
“She reacted by swearing at him.”
Miss Chatterton said the girl says she was on the platform when she first saw police but then jumped onto the tracks.
She said the girl admitted spitting at the officer, but believed “the spit hit his shoulder, not his face”, and is adamant she would not have deliberately spat in his face.
The girl told magistrates she had spent nearly nine years in care.
She said she “respects people of the law” but felt threatened and frightened that night.
“I do not condone spitting on anyone,” she said.
The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer in the execution of his duty.
Magistrates sentenced the girl to a three month referral order and ordered her to pay a £20 victim surcharge.
A referral order involves a young person agreeing and signing a contract to address the causes of their offending behaviour as well as being supervised by the Lincolnshire Youth Offending Team for the duration of the order.
Speaking after the case, Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones said: “Spitting at someone, especially the face is an abhorrent and vile act that should not be tolerated by anyone including police officers.
“No one goes to work to be assaulted and aside from the spitting itself it can also lead to months of stress and worry while tests are carried out to check for numerous infections, some of which could be life threatening.
“I am clear that the use of spit guards is an operational decision for the Chief Constable to make but I would fully support their appropriate use in Lincolnshire.
“I am fully supportive of providing the best possible equipment for officers to keep them safe and help them to keep us all safe.”
Mr Jones can’t say whether it would be right for a 13-year-old to wear a spit guard because he is not aware of all the national guidance and research.
He continued: “That would all form part of the Chief’s considerations when deciding whether to introduce them. The Force would have to create a policy that made clear how and when they could and could not be used.
“Training would have to then be given and a review of every incident involving one’s deployment carried out to ensure compliance. It’s simply not that straightforward and as Commissioner it’s not my role to be that definitive.”
Spalding based South Holland Community Policing inspector Jo Reeves says: “Spitting at another person, whoever they are, is completely unacceptable behaviour and, as this young person has learned, can land you in front of a magistrate. Spitting is considered a form of assault and the penalties can be very serious.”
• An article on The Police Federation website says: “Spitting is an abhorrent form of assault, with some officers saying they would ‘prefer to be punched in the face than spat at’.
“The effects of being spat at for an officer can be long term, as they may need to undergo anti-viral treatment and have the uncertainty of infection – currently the assailant is not required by law to give a blood sample which would let officers know if they are at risk of contracting life-threatening diseases.
“This can obviously have a big impact on their day-to-day life at this time and mental health.
“Potentially fatal infections such as tuberculosis can be transmitted by spitting as well as blood-borne infections such as hepatitis C and HIV if the assailant has blood in their mouth.”