‘I’ve got COVID’: Hospital staff coughed on by patient
A 41-year-old man has been sentenced after deliberately coughing on three hospital security guards while screaming he had COVID-19.
Graeme David Smith appeared in Redcliffe Magistrates Court on Thursday, January 14, and pleaded guilty to three charges of common assault.
The victims were three Redcliffe Hospital security guards.
Smith had been taken to the hospital by police for a mental health assessment on April 15, 2020.
He attempted to leave before the assessment and the guards informed him he was not permitted to leave.
The court heard Smith attempted to headbutt one of the security officers.
Officers tried to restrain him and Smith deliberately coughed in the direction of the guards yelling "I've got coronavirus".
A face shield was fitted to Smith, as one security officer, restraining Smith's legs attempted to adjust the shield, Smith once again deliberately coughed at him - with spit landing on the security officer's hand.
The incident was captured on the officers' body-worn cameras.
Police prosecutor Sergeant David Pollock said the matter had a number of aggravating circumstances.
"The act itself is deplorable under normal circumstances but it occurred within a pandemic and in the confines of the hospital," Sgt Pollock said.
Magistrate Mark Bucknall said documents submitted by Smith's lawyer Farah Haddad detailed the defendant was drinking a carton of alcohol a day and was suffering from depression in the lead up to the incident.
But the court heard the same report detailed that Smith was fully aware of what he was doing at the time of the incident.
"It seems that almost on a weekly basis now we are having cases such as this come before the court," Magistrate Bucknall said.
"Frontline emergency workers are the ones most exposed and this will not be taken lightly.
"(The victims) were performing a vital role assisting nurses, doctors and medical professionals being able to treat people, (Smith) was violent towards them particularly with the threat that he had COVID-19 and deliberately coughing on them."
Magistrate Bucknall said a clear message had to be sent that this behaviour would not be tolerated.
Smith was sentenced to six months for the first charge, which involved the headbutt, and four months each for the other two common assault charges.
Magistrate Bucknall suspended the sentence for 24 months.
Smith was ordered to pay $500 compensation to each victim.
Originally published as 'I've got COVID': Hospital staff coughed on by patient