Man sentenced after saying he has COVID and coughs on police

A man had to front the Roma courthouse after he coughed all over a police officer, with no attempt to cover his mouth before telling police he had COVID-19 and had been to a declared hotspot.

John Robert Edward Burton fronted the Roma Magistrates Court on March 16, after police had to deal with him during a drunken night out.

Police prosecutor sergeant Heather Whiting told the court at 12.15am, officers attended a Whipp Street residence in relation to a disturbance.

Upon arrival, officers located Burton on the footpath outside the house.

“He was heavily intoxicated and abusing another older male,” sergeant Whiting told Magistrate Peter Saggers.

“He was unsteady and his arms were flailing around.

“When officers were placing him in the police vehicle, he yelled out ‘you better lock me up... lock me up.’”

When police asked mandatory COVID-19 health related questions, Burton began throwing his wallet and shoes all over the place, the court heard.

“He was warned to stop throwing his possessions and settle down but he continued to be argumentative,” sergeant Whiting said.

“He had to answer COVID-19 questions and he told police he had COVID and had been in a hotspot.

“He coughed in front of an officer’s face and made no attempt to cover his mouth.”

Solicitor Laurie Parker said his client was not in a good place emotionally after coming to look after his father who “likes to drink a lot and isn’t in a good place”.

“After reviewing the CCTV footage, Mr Burton was at least 1.5 metres away, but that does not excuse his behaviour,” Mr Parker said.

The solicitor said his client has one previous conviction on his criminal history and submitted that Burton be fined with the conviction not recorded.

“If your dad is a difficult fella then you have to understand the police’s job... just like you don’t like your dad being difficult to you, police don’t like you being difficult to them,” Magistrate Saggers explained to Burton.

“I understand you were extremely drunk but that’s no excuse, coughing and carrying on is not necessary.

“You’ve only got one entry, don’t start racking them up.”

Burton pleaded guilty to one count of being drunk in a public place and convicted under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act for coughing on an officer.

Burton was fined $750 and the conviction was not recorded.

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