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Egremont man who lied to police avoids prison “by skin of his teeth”

Carlisle Crown Court

A man who lied to police after his partner was arrested has been spared immediate jail – partly because of the poor conditions for prison inmates amid the COVID pandemic.

Lee Cunningham’s now former girlfriend was detained in custody overnight following her criminal conduct at a Cleator Moor pub on October 13.

Cunningham, 36, initially phoned police and, posing as one of his neighbours, claimed he himself was having a domestic.

Carlisle Crown Court heard it was understood his intention was to have himself arrested so he could speak to his partner in the cells although no charge flowed from that act.

But Cunningham then called police a further six times the following day, falsely saying he was responsible for her behaviour because he had spiked her drink with Valium.

CCTV footage from the pub, however, confirmed that was not the case.

And a review of one 999 call – which was recorded – showed that before Cunningham was put through to a call handler, he said to his neighbour: “I just want her home. I haven’t spiked her.”

In interview, the defendant – a father who runs his own roofing company – admitted he had lied, hoping the woman would not receive criminal charges.

She was later sentenced for assault and resisting arrest.

Cunningham, of Chapel Terrace, Thornhill, Egremont, admitted doing an act tending or intended to pervert the course of public justice, and was sentenced this afternoon.

Recorder Simon Killeen took into account personal mitigation and a previous legal ruling which prompts judges to consider the effect of immediate custody on defendants and poor prison conditions amid the Covid pandemic as he suspended a six-month jail term for two years.

Cunningham must also complete 100 hours’ unpaid work and a three-month night time curfew.

“Offences of this kind undermine the system of justice,” said Recorder Killeen, who told the defendant he had avoided prison “by the skin of your teeth”.

He added: “This is your chance. Take it.”