A WEST Cumbrian man falsely told police he spiked his girlfriend's drink in a futile bid to save her from prosecution for a minor assault.

At Carlisle Crown Court today, a judge was told that the attempt to keep his partner out of court backfired spectacularly for 36-year-old Lee Cunningham, who was then himself arrested and charged with a far more serious offence.

He had to spend 41 days on a police imposed curfew.

The defendant, of Chapel Terrace, Thornhill, Egremont, admitted perverting the course of justice.

Prosecutor Verity Quaite said the defendant got into trouble after his concern for his partner - arrested following trouble in a Cleator Moor pub - prompted him to make seven phone calls to the police - one on October 13 and six the following day.

In the first call, he claimed to be his own neighbour, and suggested there had been 'domestic' in the hope that he would get arrested and get the chance to speak to his partner at the police station.

"On October 14, the defendant called the police a further six times," said Miss Quaite.

"He told the police he was responsible for her behaviour because he'd spiked her drink with Valium. He hadn't done so."

As a result of the claim, police had review CCTV from the pub.

A review of the the defendant's 999 call also revealed that before he was put through to a call handler, he told somebody who was in the room: "I just want her home. I didn't spike her."

Alaric Walmsley, defending, said there were exceptional circumstances which justified suspending the inevitable jail term.

As a professional roofer, with his own firm, Cunningham employed two apprentices and a labourer.

A jail term would put those people out of work.

Mr Walmsley said the defendant - a father-of-three - added: "He was in this relationship with this woman and describes it as a not particularly good relationship. They drank alcohol a lot - too much. But he is now no longer in that relationship."

Recorder Simon Killeen imposed a six month jail term but suspended the sentence for two years.

As he passed sentence, he told the defendant that - given his status as an employer and the harsh covid regime in prisons - he would suspend the sentence but he the Recorder said Cunningham had escaped immediate custody "by the skin of his teeth."

The judge added: "This is your chance: take it."

As punishment, the just ruled that the defendant must observe a three month 7pm to 7am curfew and do 100 hours of unpaid work in the community.

He must also pay £200 costs and a £128 victim surcharge.

In November, the defendant's former partner was given a community order and fine for a common assault and resisting a police constable.