Man Found Guilty Of False Race Claim

A man's been found guilty of falsely claiming a traffic warden had racially abused him and attacked him to avoid paying for a parking ticket.

Ben Hlal had parked on double yellow lines outside a supermarket in Fareham when he was approached by Andrew Lynch, a civic enforcement officer (CEO) from the local council.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard that Mr Lynch warned the 45-year-old, who was sat in the grey Volvo car, that he was parked illegally and he would issue a parking ticket if he did not move on.

But by the time Mr Lynch returned to the vehicle, Hlal, who is originally from Tunisia but lives in Fareham, had claimed to another CEO that he had been racially abused and assaulted by Mr Lynch.

Mr Lynch was arrested and interrogated by police for three hours about the alleged incident and suspended from his job at Fareham Borough Council while the case was investigated.

He was allowed back to work more than five weeks later after police decided there was no case to answer.

Hlal was gound guilty by a jury of two charges of perverting the course of public justice.

His estranged wife, Diane Bateman, 52, originally from West Bromwich but who lives in Gosport, was also found guilty of the same charge.

Her offence was to give a statement to police supporting Hlal's accusation against Mr Lynch.

Louisa Bagley, prosecuting, said:

"He (Mr Lynch) was an innocent man, albeit a traffic warden, and you may have your own views about those who issue parking tickets.

"Mr Hlal wanted to get around having to pay for that penalty ticket and hence made this allegation in order to avoiding paying for that ticket.''

Mr Lynch told the court during the trial:

"I went up to the vehicle and said to the driver that he needed to move.

"At this point he said to me that he was on the phone to the police and that I had assaulted him.

"He said that I had grabbed him around the face and had hit him against his headrest.

"I said, 'No I haven't', I stepped back and went to issue a penalty charge notice.''

Mr Lynch added:

"I was suspended from patrolling, from doing my job. I thought I was going to lose my job.''

The second charge against Hlal involved him making another false allegation that a consultant doctor had also racially abused him outside a hospital.

The court heard that Neil Buchanan had approached Hlal when he had parked in a disabled bay without a blue badge outside the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester.

Hlal went on to falsely accuse Dr Buchanan of racially assaulting him, leading to him also being arrested and questioned by police.

The case against both defendants was adjourned for sentence until February 4 and both were released on conditional bail until then.