A passenger who was caught travelling without a ticket has been jailed for a violent disturbance which saw him abusing, threatening and struggling with police who were forced to put a spit hood over his head.
As fellow passengers looked on, Jack Harris fought with officers in Swansea’s High Street station for some 20 minutes during which one of the officers suffered a dislocated shoulder. The defendant repeatedly threatened to kill police, challenged them to a fight, and warned them he was “juicy” and “tasty” after taking steroids. Sending him to prison, a judge said his behaviour had all the hallmarks of what was colloquially known as “‘roid rage”.
Swansea Crown Court heard 29-year-old Harris had moved to Swansea after people where he used to live found out he was sex offender.
Craig Jones, prosecuting, said the incident happened on October 4 last year, and began with a ticket check on the 11.48am London to Swansea train as the service was approaching Bristol Parkway station. He said the train manager approached Harris, who was standing in the vestibule at the end of a carriage, and asked for his ticket. The defendant said he had just come from work and was “drenched”, and his ticket had been destroyed. When asked for identification so a penalty notice could be issued he became loud and aggressive, and then started following the train manager through the carriages. The guard formed the opinion he was under the influence of substances.
The court heard there was a change of train managers at Bristol, and the platform supervisor was informed about what was happening. Due to Harris’ behaviour a phone call was made to Swansea station to alert them as to what was heading their way.
The prosecutor said Harris – who was identifiable by his high-visibility top – was subsequently stopped at the barriers at Swansea station and questioned about his journey and his ticket. The defendant initially said he had left the ticket on the train, and began remonstrating with the police officers who were present that train tickets were a civil matter and they had no power. When asked about his earlier conduct on the train Harris gave a false name – that of Sam Jameson – but then began swearing at officers, and threatened to throw one onto the tracks. The court heard he was warned about his behaviour but he again insisted police did not have the right to deal with him, and he unleashed a torrent of abuse.
Harris was restrained and taken to the floor, and this was to be the start of a violent 20 minute disturbance played out in front of shocked passengers during which he threatened to cut an officer’s throat, to bite-off an officer’s nose, and made crude sexual suggestions about the mother of one. During the struggle he also mocked the shoes of an officer, repeatedly told police they were abusing their power, and told them they owed him for a packet of crisps which he had dropped. When he began clearing his throat as if to start spitting, a hood was place over his head.
Mr Jones said as Harris was being taken to the waiting police van to be transported to Swansea Central police station he told officers he was “juicy” and “tasty” as he had taken steroids. He subsequently gave a largely no comment interview. Read about a dad who “used his car as a weapon” and deliberately drove at a man who he believed had mistreated his daughter.
The court heard that during the station struggle one officer suffered a dislocated shoulder and another suffered shoulder pain, while a wrist watch on one officer was smashed.
Jack Harris, of Grafog Street, Port Tennant, Swansea, had previously pleaded guilty to affray, a public order offence, criminal damage, resisting a constable, and evading a train fare when he appeared in the dock for sentencing.
The court heard he has numerous convictions for violence including assaulting police, for robbery, public order offences, and for engaging in sexual activity with a female child. At the time of the station disturbance he was subject to a suspended sentence for breaching the notification requirements as a sex offender.
Stephen Rees, for Harris, said it was accepted that a response to supervision report on the defendant raised issues about his client’s attitude – especially when challenged – and that by his own admission Harris was “entitled”. He said the defendant had been forced to move house five times after neighbours had found out about his sexual offending past before moving to Swansea and securing work. The barrister said Harris was not drunk or on drugs on the afternoon in question but said it may be that his steroid use had exacerbated his issues with controlling his temper.
Judge Paul Thomas QC said Harris’ conduct at the station had all the hallmarks of what was colloquially known as “‘roid rage”, and he said the defendant had acted in an “aggressive, confrontational, violent and totally unjustified” way. The judge said despite what Harris may have thought the officers had simply been doing their duty, and he advised him to learn what the powers of the police were before deciding to “argue the toss” with officers again.
With a 20 per cent discount for his guilty pleas Harris was sentenced to 10 months in prison comprising 10 months for the affray, and one month each for the public order offence, criminal damage, and resisting an officer all the run concurrently. No separate penalty was imposed for evading a train fare. The judge also activated six months of the previously imposed suspended sentence for failing to comply with the sexual notification requirements to run consecutively with the sentence for the station offences, making an overall sentence of 16 months. Harris will serve up to half the 16 months in prison before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community.
Speaking after the sentencing, a British Transport Police spokeswoman said: “The length of this sentence reflects Harris’ threatening and abusive behaviour, which will not be tolerated on the network by any means. Nobody should be made to feel concerned for their safety while travelling on the railway, not least someone who is simply doing their job.
“Don’t forget, you can report any crime discreetly by using our text number 61016. In an emergency dial 999.”
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