A JUDGE has praised the bravery of a Workington police officer whose actions prevented the escape of a knife-wielding man who was making death threats.

During the terrifying incident in the early hours of December 16 last year, 37-year-old Christopher Macauley brandished knives as he yelled several chilling threats, including: “I’m going to kill him” and “I want to die today.”

He tried to leave the house in Workington with the weapons, but Sergeant Victoria McGarley blocked his exit by holding the door shut.

At a later court appearance, Macauley, of Seven Acres, Parton, Whitehaven, admitted a raft of offences, including threatening a person with an offensive weapon in a private place, criminal damage, and two police assaults.

Prosecutor Andrew Evans outlined the facts.

He said police received a desperate 999 call from a man at 12.30am on December 16, with the caller asking for police to get quickly to Newlands Gardens, Workington.

The man said Macauley had a knife and he feared he was about to be killed.

The female officer arrived a short time later.

Peering through a window, she saw the defendant brandishing knives and heard him threaten to kill a man who had barricaded himself in the bathroom. As well as saying that and that he wanted to die, Macauley added: “I’ll set fire to them all.”

Seeing the defendant move towards the house door to come out, Sgt McGarley feared for the safety of both herself and other people in the area.

So she firmly held the door handle to keep Macauley inside. As she did this, she radioed for urgent assistance.

Meanwhile, said Mr Evans, Macauley returned to the bathroom and hacked at the door with the knives. This prompted the man inside to leap from the window to escape. Macauley appeared at the open window shortly afterwards.

“He was screaming and out of control,” said Mr Evans. “The officer continued holding the front door to prevent him getting out on to the street with the weapons he had.”

The defendant was seen hacking at the window with the knife.

When more police officers arrived, Macauley, armed with a “large kitchen knife,” flung furniture down the stairs at them. He was arrested after being “red dotted” by a police taser, but outside the house he tried to headbutt an officer.

At the police station, officers had to wrestle him to the ground in a cell because he was trying to use his clothing as a ligature. During this, he kicked one officer and shoved another, said Mr Evans.

In an impact statement, Sergeant McGarley said: “Throughout this incident, I believed Macauley intended causing himself and others serious harm."

Despite being accustomed to aggression and violence as a police officer, the sergeant said what happened made her fear for her safety and that of the public and colleagues.

That fear continued throughout the five minutes as she held the door shut to contain Macauley inside the house.

Brendan Burke, defending, said Macauley had an “appalling” start to his life and suffered longstanding mental health problems, as outlined in a psychiatric report.

Like many people, the defendant had stopped using the medication that controlled his behaviour because it had made him feel better. “Medication is the most important aspect of regulating his behaviour,” said Mr Burke.

Judge Nicholas Barker said the police officer who prevented Macauley from leaving the house with his weapons took “brave and courageous action.”News and Star:

The judge said: “I have listened to her victim personal statement in court and despite four years’ experience in the police and being used to the notion of violent, disruptive, and wild behaviour, this was a very challenging episode for her.

“She feared what would happen if you, wild in your behaviour and presentation, were able to get out of the door. One might suggest that she held on to that door handle as if her life depended on it.

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“She was desperately trying to prevent you from [getting out].” Macauley had been “wild, irrational, and wholly out of control.”

The defendant had likely been intoxicated at the time of his offending, observed the judge.

Judge Barker added that he believed the offending should have been charged as a single offence of affray – an offence that attracts a more severe sentence that the offences ultimately admitted by Macauley.

Concluding that the defendant currently has no realistic prospect of rehabilitation, the judge jailed him for 15 months.