Court hears Ballymena man coughed into face of shop worker ‘in middle of global pandemic’ and then threatened to ‘rape and murder’ her

The court heard the incident involving a Ballymena man happened at Homebase in Antrim. Picture: Google Maps.

A JUDGE sentenced a man to a four months jail term after saying it was “despicable” that “in the middle of a global pandemic” he had twice coughed in the face of a shop worker and made a “vile” threat to “rape and murder” her.

District Judge Nigel Broderick was speaking at Ballymena Magistrates Court, sitting in Antrim, on Thursday to Michael Wray (26), of Sunningdale Park in Ballymena.

The defendant was in court for sentencing after previously pleading guilty to charges of assaulting the employee and making a threat to kill her.

A prosecutor said police received a report on July 21 this year of a male verbally threatening an employee at ‘Homebase’ in Antrim.

The prosecutor said the employee said an unknown male had been verbally abusive to her after she had prevented him from leaving the store as a result of him “allegedly coughing directly in her face”.

The employee told police the defendant had said to her: “Do you know who I am? I know your face, I’m going to rape and murder you”. The employee said she was “frightened and distressed”.

The prosecutor said police checked a vehicle Wray was seen getting into and he was the registered owner. Police later went to his home.

During a PSNI interview the defendant admitted the offences claiming he had “anger issues” and that he didn’t mean for the employee to believe that he would carry out the threat and apologised.

Defence barrister Stephen Law said the defendant accepts his behaviour had been “disgraceful and totally reprehensible”

The lawyer said whether or not the defendant had anger issues “they should not be borne out to anyone working in any retail environment”.

The barrister said the defendant has undertaken an anger management course and appreciates it was a “nasty” incident.

Regarding coughing, the defence lawyer said on the second occasion Wray had raised his arm and attempted to cough into it.

Judge Broderick told Wray, who appeared at court via a video link from his solicitor’s office: “This is a despicable offence. In the middle of a global pandemic you cough not once but twice into an employee’s face and then you make vile threats to her”.

The judge imposed a four months jail term. Bail was fixed for appeal on the sum of £500 with conditions that Wray is to have no contact with the injured party or enter Homebase.

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