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A RCMP cruiser is shown in Vancouver, May 25, 2008.JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

A man infected with hepatitis C has been handed a six-month jail sentence for spitting into the eye and mouth of an RCMP officer during an arrest.

Graham Penner, 43, pleaded guilty to one count of assaulting a peace officer. The incident happened after Mounties were called to the home of Mr. Penner's girlfriend at about 4 a.m. on March 2 for an alleged domestic assault.

Constables Kevin Roy and Howard Morine arrived and placed Mr. Penner in handcuffs after a short discussion.

Crown lawyer Will Burrows said that's when Mr. Penner began lashing out, and spat in the face of the RCMP officer.

"Mr. Penner advised the members that he was contagious with hepatitis C, and he spat right in the face of Const. Roy," he told provincial court.

"Const. Morine hit the accused twice in the face with a punch and they forced him to the ground."

Penner's saliva got into Roy's mouth and eyes, justifying Morine's actions, Burrows said.

"He indicated he's been a member for seven years and it's the first time he'd ever had to hit somebody."

Some of the saliva also got on Morine and both officers were treated in hospital.

Mr. Burrows said the Constable Kevin Roy has had two clear hepatitis C tests since the incident, with a final examination slated for September.

Provincial court Judge Roy Dickie said incidents of contagious people spitting on police are examples of serious assault.

"It's something that should never happen. When it does happen, these courts will take it very seriously," Justice Dickie said.

"The consequences can be significant and could be life-threatening."