Albany man avoids criminal record for cop bite

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No record for cop bite.
Camera IconNo record for cop bite. Credit: The West Australian

An Albany man who bit a police officer while resisting arrest will not have the offence listed against his name after a magistrate granted him a spent conviction.

Magistrate Raelene Johnston granted the spent conviction at Albany Magistrate’s Court last Thursday despite describing the bite as “prolonged” and despite police opposing the application.

James Hopkins was placed on an eight-month community-based order with 50 hours of community work after pleading guilty to assaulting a public officer and obstructing police.

The court heard a struggle developed after Hopkins resisted arrest in the backyard of a Mira Mar home at night on March 23.

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Prosecuting Sergeant Alan Dean said one of two police officers drew their taser after Hopkins slapped their torch away, leading to their attempts to arrest him.

Sgt Dean told the court a senior constable was bitten on the wrist and suffered swelling as Hopkins moved his head frantically to resist arrest.

But he did not suggest a prison term when giving a sentencing submission.

Defence lawyer Graeme Payne said his client had been at a wedding reception that night and had no recollection of the incident due to a combination of prescription medication and alcohol.

He said Hopkins, who issued a letter of apology to police, had flagged down a car on York Street to take him to hospital but did not know how he ended up at the North Road home.

Sgt Dean opposed the application for a spent conviction believing an assault on a police officer was a serious offence and a conviction was in the public interest.

But he said a sentence of a community-based order would be appropriate for Hopkins’ treatment needs.

Ms Johnston said she believed it unlikely Hopkins would commit a similar offence again and “on balance” granted him a spent conviction.

She warned Hopkins he would be re-sentenced if he offended again while on the order. WA Police Union president Harry Arnott said a spent conviction for assaulting a public officer was out of line with community expectation.

“A spent conviction for an assault on a police officer is out of line with community expectations and raises the ire of both officers and the community,” he said.

In 2009, the State Government introduced mandatory sentencing laws for assaulting public officers which carried a minimum six-month prison term for anyone convicted of causing bodily harm.

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