Man jailed for biting police officer and spitting at another in Harrogate

A prolific offender who bit a Harrogate police officer and spat at another during the Covid pandemic has been jailed for over a year.

Friday, 31st December 2021, 1:58 pm
Updated Friday, 31st December 2021, 3:02 pm

Police were called to Sainsbury’s supermarket on Wetherby Road after Mark Murtagh, 34, attacked a security guard, York Crown Court heard.

The security man had been following Murtagh around the aisles, sensing that he was up to no good, said prosecutor Muneeb Akram.

Murtagh suddenly turned round, asked the guard why he was following him and aimed a volley of vile racial abuse at him.

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A man has been jailed for over a year after biting a Harrogate police officer and spitting at another during the Covid pandemic

The security officer brought out his phone and tried to call police, but Murtagh knocked it out of his hand, sending it flying across a shopping aisle.

A staff manager called police who quickly arrived to arrest Murtagh, who had no intention of going quietly.

As he tried to resist arrest, he shouted abuse at the two officers, telling them to “take these cuffs off” and “hand over your jacket”.

Mr Akram said: “(Murtagh) said he had Covid and coughed directly at (the named female officer), causing spit to land on her.

“He’s restrained to the floor by officers (but) tries to resist and attempts to get back up with his legs by swinging them around.”

As Murtagh attempted to “push himself away” along the floor using his arms, he tried to bite the male traffic constable’s leg.

The named officer managed to push Murtagh’s face away but as he did so, he was bitten on the wrist, causing puncture wounds which drew blood.

The officer finally brought Murtagh under control by spraying CS gas in his face and he was taken into custody.

The officer was said to have suffered psychological harm following the incident at about 5pm on September 10 last year.

Murtagh, of Findon Terrace, Bradford, was charged with two counts of assaulting an emergency worker, one count of resisting arrest and racially aggravated assault on the security guard.

He admitted the offences on the day his trial was due to be held and appeared for sentence via video link on Wednesday.

Mr Akram said Murtagh had 26 previous convictions for 42 offences including violence, resisting police officers, drink-fuelled disorderly behaviour, drugs matters, theft and handling stolen goods.

Vincent Blake-Barnard, for Murtagh, said the father-of-one’s violent behaviour in the supermarket was “born of frustration” due to problems he had at the time.

But judge Sean Morris, the Recorder of York, branded his behaviour “disgraceful”.

He slammed Murtagh for violently resisting two officers “doing a tough job, serving the public”.

Jailing Murtagh for 14 months, the judge told him: “This was a lengthy and distressing arrest.

"Police officers are entitled to perform their duties without being assaulted.”

Murtagh will serve half of that sentence behind bars before being released on parole.