Man jailed for criminal damage and assault

Exeter Crown Court. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref exe 9420-31-11AW

Exeter Crown Court. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref exe 9420-31-11AW - Credit: Archant

A Fathers4Justice campaigner has been jailed for delivering a letter to the children’s services inside a brick which he threw into a display cabinet.

Richard West produced the brick from a briefcase in the foyer of County Hall in Exeter and hurled it into the glass case which contained civic regalia.

He had terrified staff at East Devon District Council’s offices at The Knowle, Sidmouth, during an unrelated incident when he threw chairs around a meeting room during an argument about housing benefit.

He went on to attack a housing association official in the concourse of Exeter Crown Court after losing his temper during an eviction hearing.

West was one of the first members of Fathers4Justice and has been prominent in many of their campaigns in the South West and elsewhere in Britain.

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West, aged 47, formerly of Tip Hill, Ottery St Mary, but now living in London, was convicted of two offences of criminal damage, one of threatening behaviour, and assault by battery.

He was jailed for 112 days when a Judge at Exeter Crown Court rejected his appeal from a sentence passed by Exeter Magistrates last year.

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He will serve the sentence after he finished serving an 18 month sentence imposed at Guildford Crown Court last month for assaulting a policeman in Surrey.

Mr Tom Bradnock, prosecuting, said the first incident happened at the East Devon council offices in Sidmouth in August 2014 during a meeting with two female officers to discuss his housing benefit claim.

He became angry and the two women retreated in terror to the back wall of the room after a panic alarm button failed.

West threw chairs around the room one of which hit the women but did not cause any serious injury and another of which smashed a glass panel in a door and dislodged plaster from the wall.

Mr Bradnock said: ”West began a tirade and threw paperwork on the floor. He sent an e-mail the next day saying sorry for ‘causing them alarm and entertainment’. He said he acted out of anxiety and distress and it was a matter of fight or flight.”

The next incident happened at County Hall in Exeter in November 2014 when police were called to the main reception area.

Mr Bradnock said: “West spoke to a receptionist. He placed a briefcase on the desk and removed a brick which he threw through a glass cabinet, causing it to smash and damage a number of trophies inside.

“Police attended and seized the brick. They found a letter inserted into it addressed to the head of children’s services at the county council. It said the message had been delivered by mortar.”

The attack on the cabinet caused £564 damage and West went on to smash a police mobile phone which he threw down the lavatory while in a cell at Heavitree Road police station.

The final incident happened after an eviction hearing at Exeter Crown and County Court. He attacked Housing Association official Lawrence Martin as he left the building.

West grabbed his tie and shirt and dragged him to the ground where he kicked him before being dragged away by a security officer. Mr Lawrence did not suffer any serious injuries.

West, who was not represented, said the sentences were too harsh and did not acknowledge the emotional turmoil he was suffering at the time.

He said:”During the whole bag, I was a torrid, emotional mess.”

Recorder Mr Meeke said the original sentence was justified but allowed the appeal to the extent of allowing two of the sentences to run concurrently, meaning West will serve 112 days rather then 156.

He ordered the sentence to start when West completes the 18 month term he is currently serving.

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