A 21-year-old Coffs Harbour man is facing jail for a filmed coronavirus prank during which he allegedly coughed on a NSW officer and told her he had the highly infectious disease.
The arrest on Tuesday came as an alleged drink-driver was also accused of coughing in the direction of an officer in Muswellbrook while saying he was infected with COVID-19.
The 21-year-old will appear in court in May after being charged over the north coast incident which caused the Coffs Harbour Police Station to be temporarily closed.
The police union slammed the prank as “grossly irresponsible and dangerous” after the man was accused of coughing on a 71-year-old general station officer.
Video uploaded to the internet shows the man approaching the station and saying: “I’m a criminal, I’ve got to report to these dogs every day.”
When he arrives at the counter he says: “I’ve been tested positive for that coronavirus … I have to report every day or I’ll go to jail.”
He’s asked by a police officer “Do you honestly think that that’s funny?” before replying: “It’s a little bit of a laugh.”
A female friend filmed part of the incident and can be heard remonstrating with police as the 21-year-old was led away.
“The police station was closed, and the necessary isolation protocols were put in place,” NSW Police said in a statement.
“Upon further inquiries, it was revealed the man did not have the virus.”
He was charged with stalking or intimidation with intent to cause fear of physical harm – which carries a maximum jail term of five years – and resisting arrest.
He was granted bail and is due to appear in court on May 6.
Meanwhile, a 42-year-old man has been accused of coughing on police after being pulled over and asked to provide a breath test in Muswellbrook, in the upper Hunter region.
He was charged with high-range drink-driving after allegedly recording a blood alcohol level of 0.274 – more than five times the legal limit.
He was pulled over after police noticed his Holden Commodore stopped in the middle of the road on Tuesday afternoon.
Police say that when he was asked to submit to a breath test he claimed he had COVID-19 and coughed at the police officer.
He was granted bail to appear in Muswellbrook Local Court on April 6.
Police Association of NSW president Tony King says officers are appalled by the behaviour of some members of the public during the COVID-19 pandemic – including at supermarkets.
“Given the exposure to risks that are faced every day by the NSW Police Force the grossly irresponsible and dangerous behaviour of the two individuals today, who allegedly coughed towards an employee at Coffs Harbour and an officer at Muswellbrook, is beyond deplorable,” Mr King said in a statement.
“Police officers are working above and beyond the call of duty to give reassurance to the public in a time of public crisis – they should never be targets of abuse.”