Father was wrongly arrested and found not guilty of assault

08:00 22 August 2014

Exeter Magistrates Court

Exeter Magistrates Court

Archant

A Sidmouth father accused of assaulting his neighbour before damaging a pair of handcuffs as he resisted arrest has been cleared of all charges.

Richard West, 47, of Sampson Close, was alleged to have attacked James Newbery as he vacuum-cleaned his car before lifting the Henry Hoover over his head and hurling it down the street, writes Stephen Sumner.

Exeter Magistrates’ Court also heard how West struggled with PC Tony Smith and threw his handcuffs away, causing them damage.

But district judge Stephen Nicholls said he was satisfied West had acted in self-defence in the alleged assault on May 26 and so his arrest had been unlawful.

The trial was told the incident was the culmination of months of allegations and counter-allegations between West and Mr Newbery and his wife.

The court heard the couple had told the housing association West was a drug dealer subjecting them to harassment and intimidation.

There had been a previous disagreement over Mr Newbery’s use of the communal power supply to clean his car, which led to the incident on May 26 of this year.

West claimed he was pushed by his neighbour and fell on the vacuum cleaner, damaging it, and his attempts to defend himself had caused cuts to Mr Newbery’s face.

A former boxer, West said he could have inflicted serious injury had he wanted to, but had not thrown a punch, in anger or in sport, since 2005 – when he was convicted of an assault causing actual bodily harm. He said he had since been ‘rehabilitated’.

In mitigation, Brian Fitzherbert said that the Newberys’ ongoing allegations against his client had been a calculated attempt to get him evicted or arrested.

He said the couple had previously threatened West, made comments about his lack of custody of his three children, and said he should get a job.

Judge Nicholls ruled that, given the previous confrontations, he was satisfied West had acted in self-defence and found him not guilty of assault.

The trial heard that, following the ‘scuffle’, Mrs Newbery called the police and PC Smith attended the scene.

West returned from Waitrose and approached him hoping to offer his side of the events.

PC Smith attempted to arrest West but he resisted and, in the struggle, managed to throw the handcuffs ‘as far away as possible’ to ‘prevent them being used as a weapon’ and inflicting injury.

The officer eventually pulled out his Taser and the handcuffs were applied.

West claimed PC Smith had acted ‘vindictively’ after a previous incident in which West ‘humiliated’ him in front of a crowd of customers – something the officer disputed.

Judge Nicholls found that PC Smith had no reasonable justification to suspect West of an assault, so the arrest had been unlawful and West had a lawful excuse to damage the restraints.

He also found West not guilty of criminal damage to the Henry.

The Newberys’ application for a restraining order on West on his acquittal was rejected.

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