Prosecuters have succeeded in a bid to increase the prison sentence given to a man jailed for spitting on two police officers during the Covid 19 lockdown.
Crown lawyers believed the four month sentence given earlier this year to Iain Lindsay,48, was too lenient.
Lindsay, of Inverness, was jailed at the city’s sheriff court in May 2020 after pleading guilty to a charge of engaging in culpable and reckless conduct and endangering the lives of the officers.
Sheriff Sara Matheson gave him a custodial term after hearing how he assaulted the officers after he had been taken to a police station on April 15 2020 in connection with another incident.
Last week, prosecution lawyer Alex Prentice QC told appeal judges Lady Dorrian, Lord Glennie and Lord Turnbull that Lindsay should have been given a longer sentence.
He said that Lindsay had a lengthy criminal record and that Sheriff Matheson should have taken that into account before imposing the sentence.
In a written judgement issued on Tuesday, the appeal judges agreed with Mr Prentice and increased the sentence to 10 months.
In the judgement, Lady Dorrian, Scotland’s second most senior judge, also revealed that at April 29 2020 a total of 827 Police Scotland employees had been tested for Covid 19 and that 163 of them had been found to be suffering from the disease.
She wrote: “In our opinion the sentence as a generality meets the test of undue leniency.
“The respondent has an appalling record and, apart from referring to it as a ‘bad record’, the sheriff gives no indication that she really took this into account and reflected it in the sentence which she imposed.
“The respondent’s record runs to 11 pages.
“He has appeared on complaint well over a 100 times, on over 170 charges, as well as appearing on indictment for assault.
“The Sheriff took into account that the offence was not planned, but failed to recognise that the actions were nonetheless deliberate and designed to cause significant fear and alarm.
“Although the respondent was not displaying any symptoms the terms of Government medical advice issued is well known: a person can have Covid-19 and transmit it without displaying any symptoms. The respondent’s conduct displayed an utter disregard for others. His actions were not conducive to maintaining a relatively low level of infection in the locality.”
During proceedings at Inverness Sheriff Court earlier this year, the court heard how as Lindsay was being asked routine questions, he turned towards one officer and coughed once in his face. He then turned to another officer and also coughed in his face.
Although Lindsay wasn’t displaying any symptoms, the incident caused the officers and their families “significant alarm and distress”.
During proceedings last week, Mr Prentice also asked the court for guidance on whether accused people who plead guilty during the Covid 19 crisis should receive an enhanced discount on their sentence.
Mr Prentice said the Crown opposed such a move but some defence lawyers believed that such a discount should be given given the current state of the Scottish legal system.
Trials have been suspended amid fears that it would be difficult to implement social distancing measures in Scottish courts and to ensure that the Coronavirus doesn’t spread.
Senior figures in the Scottish justice system fear that there is a large backlog of cases being built up due to courts not sitting.
A panel of experts headed by Lady Dorrian is currently examining ways to resume trials.
However, the appeal judges said an enhanced discount should not be given to accused people who plead guilty during the current public health emergency.
In the judgement, Lady Dorrian states that accused people can already receive a 33 per cent discount for pleading guilty.
She wrote: “To take account of the current emergency as a reason for discounting a custodial sentence would discriminate unfairly against prisoners who may have been given a short term sentence shortly before the lockdown, in favour of those upon whom such sentences are imposed now.
“Furthermore, short term prison sentences are subject to both automatic early release and discretionary early release. The latter in particular provides an administrative method by which the most serious consequences of imprisonment in the short term may be mitigated.”
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