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9 March 2015, 14:53
A man who armed himself with a kitchen knife before trying to find and confront a group of people in Maidstone town centre has been jailed for 18 months.
Lee Ball also persuaded two women to act as his "back-up" and carry other knives and a baseball bat during a dispute last year.
The 38-year-old, formerly of Wrangelden Road, Maidstone, was arrested on 20 July last year after officers were called to Station Road following reports of a disturbance. Two women - Mary-Ann Andrews, 32, of Acorn Place, Maidstone and Nichola Bumstead, 36, of Wallis Avenue, Maidstone - were also arrested after they concealed further knives at the request of Ball.
During police interviews, Ball claimed he had been heading to Brenchley Gardens to look for a man who owed him money and who was part of a large group. He said he had asked the women to carry knives and accompany him for his protection.
When questioned over the incident, Bumstead told police she thought Ball might have killed someone. Andrews claimed she had not being carrying any knives at all, despite officers finding two on the floor next to where she had been standing. She insisted Ball and Bumstead had handed both to her when police arrived. However, CCTV images showed Andrews was lying and had been in possession of one knife all the time.
The trio appeared at Maidstone Crown Court on Tuesday 2 March. Ball was sentenced to 18 months in prison for possessing a bladed article in a public place. He had previously pleaded guilty. Bumstead and Andrews pleaded guilty to the same charges and were both sentenced to 6 months, suspended for 12 months.
Detective Constable Amy Ezzi said: "This occurred in area where there would have been families, children and shoppers passing by. Ball put into place plans that would have enabled him to have an assortment of knives at his disposal should the need arise. Bumstead was carrying three for him which we discovered hidden up her sleeve and was also holding a baseball bat.
"There can never be any excuse to carry weapons on our streets and this case highlights the dangers our frontline uniformed officers can face whilst they are keeping the public safe. I’m pleased that the courts have recognised the dangers that Ball posed, with a custodial sentence."