A BANNED driver arrested for driving a tractor on a residential Carlisle street claimed he had coronavirus – and then spat at a police officer.

But Barry Doswell’s appalling behaviour earned him a jail sentence when he appeared at the city’s Rickergate Court.

Magistrates heard that the 32-year-old had come to the attention of police on the afternoon of July 15 last year.

Two police officers saw Doswell – a banned driver – at the wheel of the Massey Ferguson tractor in Balfour Road, near the Wigton Road junction.

Realising he had been spotted, Doswell leapt from the cab and ran off. Police found him nearby, hiding behind a car on Windermere Road. The tractor had sustained £1,000 worth of damage to its ignition unit.

It was as an officer was taking him to a cell at the city’s Durranhill Police HQ, that Doswell became aggressive and spat at him, claiming he had Covid-19, the court heard.

Three days earlier, Doswell was arrested for yet more motoring offences – speeding and driving illegally on the M6.

The defendant, of Grinsdale, near Carlisle, admitted seven offences:

* Two counts of disqualified driving (one in the tractor and the other a Peugeot car on the M6 Motorway).

* Taking the tractor without consent.

* Assaulting a police officer.

* Driving without valid insurance.

* Driving with no proper driving licence.

* And exceeding the speed limit at Southwaite on the M6 northbound, reaching 94mph.

Jeff Smith, for Doswell, said the defendant’s behaviour while he was offending could be put down to his use of illicit drugs.

Doswell – who aims to return to his job as a roofer – had become free of drugs after his recall to prison, said Mr Smith.

Explaining the tractor incident, Mr Smith said his client insisted he was not in fact the original taker of the Massey Ferguson. It was first taken by somebody else and Doswell had then taken the tractor from that person. “He’s remorseful,” added the lawyer.

Magistrates jailed Doswell for 20 weeks and imposed a 14 month ban. Explaining the sentence, they said: “The offence was so serious because it involved spitting and kicking out at an officer during the pandemic.”

The defendant was told to pay £250 compensation to the tractor’s owner (covering the insurance excess charge on the claim to pay for repairing the damaged ignition unit).