Man Found Guilty Of Attacking Barrow MP
5 June 2019, 07:53 | Updated: 5 June 2019, 07:55
A judge told Michael Wilkes he wasn't a credible witness
A man who claimed Barrow MP John Woodcock "threw himself" to the floor during an argument to fabricate an assault has been found guilty of battery.
District Judge Gerald Chalk found Michael Wilkes, that he wasn't a 'credible witness'.
The altercation happened in Ambleside, last June.
Mr Woodcock fell backwards on to the steps of a chemist's shop and received a 1cm graze to his right knee and a bruised elbow, Barrow Magistrates' Court heard.
Giving evidence, the MP said that Wilkes's account that he had taken a dive was "totally ridiculous".
Peter Bardsley, prosecuting, said Mr Woodcock and his partner, Isabel Hardman - assistant editor of The Spectator magazine - were driving through the Lake District town at about 7.30pm when they said two men stepped in front of the vehicle as Ms Hardman negotiated a blind corner.
Ms Hardman told the court via videolink that she was forced to brake suddenly, but that people normally did not hear her electric Nissan Leaf car approaching.
She said both men gesticulated and swore at her.
She said: "I was cross they had been so angry because I was driving carefully. It had annoyed me that that they were trying to make out it was my fault."
The journalist said she planned to wind down her window and "tell them off" before Mr Woodcock decided he wanted to get out of the car and speak to them.
Her view of what happened next was obscured, she said, but she saw Mr Woodcock "flying back very quickly and landing like he had been pushed or thrown there".
Mr Woodcock told the court Wilkes and another man, Perry Singleton, "marched" towards him in a confrontational manner.
He said said he was pushed twice to the chest by Mr Singleton - who denied he touched the MP.
Then Wilkes pushed him with "considerably more force", he said.
He said: "It was all very sudden. I guess I fell backwards and I hit my right knee on the step which must have been just behind us."
Steven Hill, a holidaymaker who was passing by at the time, told the court he saw Mr Woodcock being pushed over after a heated discussion with two younger men.
Mr Woodcock said he later followed both men into the nearby Churchill Inn pub to discover their identity and Wilkes gave him a false name.
The next day the MP said he tracked the pair down via Twitter and both were later arrested.
Mr Woodcock disagreed with Trystan Roberts, defending Wilkes, that neither his client or Mr Singleton had shouted abuse at the vehicle.
Mr Roberts said the MP had been assaulted previously and had received "some fairly positive feedback" in being hailed as a "have a go hero".
He said: "You have taken yourself to the floor to claim you have been assaulted."
"That's totally ridiculous," replied Mr Woodcock.
Mr Roberts continued: "Not long before this you lost the whip of the (Labour) party and you felt you were a have a go hero."
Mr Woodcock said: "With due respect that's totally ridiculous. The number of things that we have to deal with in our public life and in our private life, the idea that we would open ourselves to something like this by manufacturing something is totally absurd."
Wilkes told police he accepted he made a "stupid" hand gesture towards the vehicle and that he had drank five or six pints of lager by the time of the incident.
He said he was "a little tipsy but not out of control".
He went on to say the only physical contact came as Mr Woodcock blocked his path on the narrow pavement after the MP got out of the vehicle.
Wilkes said: "I put my hand on the top of his arm and pushed him to one side, not with a lot of force.
"There was a pause and he just threw himself to the floor. It was a bit surreal ... and then he shouted to his girlfriend to 'video this, video this'. It was like he was trying to get some sort of reaction and some sort of evidence he had been assaulted."
The defendant said he recognised the MP and said he had voted for him.
Sentencing Wilkes, of Headland Rise, Walney, to a 12-month community order, the judge said he did not find him to be a "credible witness" in his evidence.
He said "I accept this was not pre-meditated but I believe the misuse of alcohol may have led to this incident."
Wilkes must complete 60 hours of unpaid work and pay £150 compensation and £705 court costs.
Mr Woodcock quit as a Labour MP last July after the party suspended him over claims that he sent inappropriate messages to a former female member of staff, which he denies.