Suspended prison terms for men who assaulted police called to ‘covid breach’ party
Two Ballymena men refused to engage with the PSNI at the front and back doors of a house but police smashed a window to gain entry to a “Halloween Party” at the centre of an alleged breach of covid restrictions, a court has been told.
Mervyn Kerr (52), of Rosses Lane and Hugh McCalmont (52), of Orkney Drive, who had previously clear records, were each given suspended jail sentences at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday.
Kerr pleaded guilty to assaulting two police officers and McCalmont admitted assaulting one of the policemen.
A prosecutor said at 2.30am on November 1 last year police attended an address in Ballymena “following a report of breaches of the coronavirus restrictions”.
Police saw a number of people in a dwelling and alcohol was visible at what police believed was an “ongoing party”.
For 15 minutes police attempted to speak with the occupants regarding the regulations but Kerr “refused to engage with police” at the front of the house and McCalmont adopted a similar stance at the back.
Kerr locked the door and told police they were not getting entry as they had “no warrant” and “appeared to record footage on his mobile phone while repeatedly telling police to F off and threatening to set his dogs on them”.
The prosecution lawyer said McCalmont “similarly refused to open a door” and repeatedly demanded that police showed him a warrant.
The lawyer said officers explained, “multiple times”, why they were there and “due to repeated refusal to comply” police had broken a window in a rear door in order to gain entry.
Kerr yelled abusive language at officers and kicked the now open door towards police causing shards of glass to be flung towards them.
McCalmont joined Kerr and despite being warned to move back the defendants were “physically aggressive”.
Police batons were drawn with “baton strikes being issued by police,” the prosecutor said.
Kerr attempted to kick a policeman before hitting him on the face with his hand and McCalmont grabbed the officer’s body armour, striking him several times to the face with his fist.
Another officer, fearing for the safety of his colleague, deployed CS spray and was kicked on the leg by Kerr during a struggle.
One officer’s injuries included a finger nail being “ripped back” and he had bruising on his face, neck, shoulders, hip and leg along with scratches on his body.
A defence barrister said it had been a “Halloween Party for their children” and somebody had alerted police. He said Kerr hadn’t fully appreciated “Covid guidance” but the lawyer said there had been “some degree of ambiguity” over the regulations at the time.
“But be that as it may the police were there tasked to break up this party,” the barrister added.
He said the home owner Kerr felt police needed a warrant for entry.
“The situation, probably fuelled by drink, quickly deteriorated,” the lawyer said.
The barrister said one person present received a ‘Covid-19 Notification’.
The lawyer said after taking a “robust approach” to police the defendants “came off considerably worse” after being sprayed with CS Spray along with “quite numerous baton strikes”.
He said it had been a “terrible scenario” for two men in their 50s.
The lawyer said Kerr is “going to start watching the BBC” to get news on Covid regulations.
District Judge Nigel Broderick said it had been a “very nasty assault” on police and added: “All they were doing was trying to break up, probably a party in breach of the coronavirus regulations.”
He said one of the officers received a number of injuries “when all he was doing was enforcing the all-important Covid-19 regulations”.
Both men were given three month prison terms, suspended for a year, and also ordered to pay a total of £500 compensation to the injured police officer.