A man who spat at police officers and soaked his police cell in urine has been jailed for 10 months.

Serial thief Christopher Howard, 40, admitted assaulting police officers, interfering with vehicles, damaging a police van, theft and possession of a knife.

It was the blade, a small lock knife attached to a keyring and found in a jacket discarded as Howard ran from police in May, that earned him six months out of the 10 month sentence imposed by magistrates. The remaining four months was for assaulting police officers.

Jailing the Liden man at Swindon Magistrates’ Court on Saturday morning, chairman of the bench Maryanne Burton said: “You’ve somehow got to turn this revolving door.

“You go into custody, you come out and then for various reasons you’re then finding yourself back in courts extremely quickly, which never gives the probation service the opportunity to work with you and change the pattern of your life.

“We can only do so much. It’s up to you.”

The court earlier heard prosecutor Ben Worthington outline how police had repeatedly been called to reports of Howard trying car doors.

On May 22, officers were despatched to Bampton Grove, Old Walcot. They spotted a man throwing something over a hedge. Howard was the man stopped by officers and the item discarded behind the hedge was a jacket. Inside the jacket pockets was a small lock knife attached to a keyring.

Two months later, on July 19, police were back in Bampton Grove after callers reported a man trying to get into cars. Homeowners spotted him trying doors of a VW Golf, Audi A3 and Peugeot 208 without success.

In the early hours of Friday, September 25, he was on neighbouring Burford Avenue and reportedly trying to get into cars.

Police arrived at the scene and a sniffer dog, Conan, found Howard hiding beneath a lorry. In his possession were a pair of stolen sunglasses and a wallet and bottles of Stella Artois taken from another vehicle.

He was arrested and started spitting at the officers, hitting one in the face and another in the arm.

He peppered the inside of a police van in spittle and, when taken to his cell at Gablecross police station, urinated on the floor. The clean-up cost £110, the court heard.

Magistrates heard Howard had a lengthy criminal record, with a knife conviction dating back to 2011 and another weapons conviction from 2001. That put him at risk of the mandatory minimum sentence of six months behind bars.

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A Serco custody van, believed to be transporting Christopher Howard, leaves Swindon Magistrates' Court on Saturday

Defending, Gordon Hotson sought to persuade the JPs it would be unjust to impose the mandatory six months sentence.

The lawyer pointed to the fact it was nine years since his client’s last weapons offence, that the knife found on his keyring in May was very small and, had it not been a lock knife, would have been legal to possess.

Howard had struggled with addiction in the past but was now on a prescription for a class A drug substitute. He was homeless but was working with the probation service and a police officer mentor. Mr Hotson asked magistrates to consider giving his client a suspended prison sentence.

However, probation officer Michelle James questioned Howard’s motivation, saying he had breached his post sentence supervision earlier this year. Since being released from custody on September 7 he had been offered a number of appointments but only attended one.

Howard, of Sheringham Court, Liden, pleaded guilty to assaulting emergency workers, criminal damage, theft, possession of a knife and vehicle interference.

Jailing Howard for 10 months, the magistrates also ordered he pay £110 compensation to Wiltshire Police and a £46 victim surcharge. No order was made that he pay prosecution costs.