A man who armed himself with a watering can full of petrol and doused eight police officers in the flammable liquid, leaving them fearing for their lives, has been jailed for three years and nine months.
A judge told 28-year-old Justin Jackson, from Basildon, that the "terrifying experience" made the officers fear they had been attacked with acid.
One officer revealed he remembered fear "we could all go up in flames here like Roman candles."
Shocking aerial footage shows Jackson running at full pelt from a block of flats and violently chuck petrol on the officers as they detained a man on the ground.
Jackson threw petrol in the officers' faces during a stand-off in Ward Close, Laindon, Basildon, on May 5, after police had chased a suspect on a stolen motorbike into the close.
Joe Bird, prosecuting, told Basildon Crown Court that disorder had broken out after people interfered with attempts to arrest him.
A large police presence descended on the close, near to Laindon Park and Laindon Station, at around 6pm after a huge chase involving the police helicopter between Canvey Island and Basildon.
Jackson admitted at an earlier hearing at to eight counts of administering a noxious substance with intent to cause injury.
Judge Samantha Cohen, sentencing him today, found that Jackson did it to prevent them from making arrests.
She said: "Initially some (of the officers) thought they were splashed with a disfiguring acid or bleach, but when they smelled it was petrol they feared they would be set alight."
Judge Cohen praised the officers involved as a "credit to their force".
The disorder on May 5 involved a "considerable number" of members of the public and the police helicopter was on the scene, he said.
During this disorder, Jackson "armed himself with a watering can full of petrol" then "brings it to the scene and sprays officers with it", Mr Bird said.
He said the impact on the eight police officers varied, with some feeling "stinging on the skin the petrol came into contact with" and others getting the fuel in their eyes.
"One described being unable to see, having his head in his hands on the floor, not knowing what was going to happen to him or how he was going to get out of the situation," said Mr Bird.
He said all of the officers described a feeling of fear, adding: "They realised it was petrol and they were involved in a very serious incident with a number of members of the public and they thought this could get quite considerably worse.
"They thought they could be set alight and left with significantly worse injuries, if not killed."
Temporary Superintendent Jonathan Baldwin, reading from his victim impact statement in court, said: "At the time of the incident while being covered with petrol I remember thinking 'we could all go up in flames here like Roman candles'."
He said he could not see if anyone was smoking in the vicinity, adding: "It was one of those days I realised I might not have got home at all.
"This was in my view a calculated attack carried out without regard for the lives of police officers, their loved ones and others who were nearby at the time.
He said that some people came out from their homes carrying kitchen pans full of water and inviting officers to use their sinks and showers to help them.
"These particular memories have helped me keep a tight grip on the hope that what some people did that day is not representative of the wider community," said Mr Baldwin.
Alison Gurden, for Jackson, of Ward Close, Basildon, said that he had written a letter of apology and she read it aloud to the court.
In the letter, Jackson said: "I was just trying to defuse the situation."
He added: "I'm deeply sorry for what I've done and I can only imagine the fear they felt."
Janine Justin, 47, of Ward Close, Basildon, was found guilty of possessing an offensive weapon for arming herself with a hammer during the incident.
She was sentenced on Thursday to nine months in prison suspended for 18 months and ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work.
Gwawr Thomas, for Justin, said the defendant had no previous convictions and the incident was "out of character".
It sent shockwaves through our force
Chief Constable Ben-Julian (BJ) Harrington said: “When the news broke that eight Essex Police officers were attacked in such a horrendous way, it sent shockwaves through our force. I felt it just like everybody else.
"The officers were out protecting the public doing their duty. Their response, their restraint and the their bravery was first class.
“Officers know that they will have to face danger and confrontation, but this does not mean it is acceptable. I am pleased that the courts today have recognised this by imprisoning Justin Jackson for his crime.
"It was no surprise that all of the officers carried on their shifts that night and ever since, but I know they will still be feeling the emotional effects from that day and we will continue to support them.
"I want to thank them on behalf of the whole force and the people of Essex for their determination and courage. They are a true testament to the what British policing is all about.
“No officer should ever get attacked for doing their job – protecting and serving our communities to keep them safe. I know we have the support of the public in doing this and officers and staff know they have my support.
“I do though want to make it very clear. If you assault my officers or staff, we will pursue you relentlessly within the law to ensure that you face justice – just like Justin Jackson has.”
A 17-year-old from Basildon was sentenced at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Friday, August 16, for driving a motor vehicle dangerously. He was disqualified from driving for 12 months and fined.
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