Friday, June 28, 2013
By Tina Rowe
An incident in which two hunt monitors were threatened, sworn at and had their camcorders wrenched from their hands ended in court appearances for three hunt supporters.
Gamekeepers Lee Mabey and Lewis Longstaff and unemployed carpenter Paul Bennett, all supporters of the Dorset-based Cattistock Hunt, admitted using threatening words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress, when they appeared before magistrates in Weymouth yesterday.
But charges of theft against Mabey and Bennett were withdrawn after magistrates were told that the men maintained that they had simply confiscated the camcorders and planned to hand them in to a police station.
The three were each given one-year conditional discharges and ordered to pay £85 towards the prosecution costs. Mabey and Longstaff were also ordered to pay £15 victim surcharges.
Bennett, who wrenched monitor Helen Weeks’ camcorder from her hand so fiercely that one of her fingers was left painful and bruised, admitted assault at an earlier hearing. He was fined £75 and ordered to pay £50 compensation and a £20 victim surcharge. He also admitted possession of a small quantity of cannabis for which he was given no separate penalty.
The harassment, alarm or distress charge was substituted for the more serious public order offence of using words or behaviour to other persons whereby they would fear that violence was provoked. The three pleaded not guilty to the latter charge, which was withdrawn.
Simon Clarke, prosecuting, told the court that Mrs Weeks and fellow hunt monitor Graham Forsyth were monitoring the hunt from a stationary car at Portesham on February 23 this year when the three defendants arrived in a vehicle and stopped close by.
Mrs Weeks and Mr Forsyth were concerned and got out of their car and the defendants: “spoke aggressively and their body language was aggressive.” At one stage one of the defendants used a grossly offensive sexual word and a grossly offensive term for a form of disability.
“The defendants were querying why they were being filmed and two of them took the cameras from Mr Forsyth and Mrs Weeks, forcibly,” said Mr Clarke. The defendants got back into their car and drove off. Police were notified and the three were found by officers at a local McDonalds restaurant. They handed back the cameras and said they had only taken them because the monitors were filming in their faces.
Tim Shorter, defending Bennett said he had said he was sorry that Mrs Weeks was injured and had not meant to hurt her. Ian Brazier, for Mabey and Longstaff, said there was nothing to suggest the hunt was acting illegally or improperly and they accepted they had over-reacted to being filmed.
The chairman of the court told the men: “We do think there was slight provocation because you were being filmed but that is no excuse or your actions or the aggressive words spoken towards the victims.”
Mrs Weeks and Mr Forsyth, who were in court to watch the proceedings, said later they shocked to see the theft charges withdrawn. Mrs Weeks said: “The police were wonderful, but how can you wrench someone’s possession away and drive off with it and for the charges to be dropped? I have angina and was quite alarmed.”
Mr Forsyth added: “We will probably complain to the CPS about the case as I have a camcorder that does not work properly.”