ANGRY Jonathan Gregory attacked a nine-year-old boy with a baseball bat after he thought he broke a ‘keep out’ sign he had made.
The 52-year-old had denied assault by beating but after hearing evidence from the victim – who cannot be named for legal reasons – his 13-year-old friend and a neighbour, magistrates found him guilty.
He had said the weapon was, in fact, a cardboard tube and he used reasonable force to make a citizen’s arrest on the child. But magistrates didn’t believe him.
The court heard that the incident, happened at 6.45pm on April 28.
David Adams, defending, said that Gregory’s mother, 84-year-old Margaret, had woken the defendant after she became scared when she could see people in the trees on the other side of their property, and when she saw their fence shaking.
Gregory, who was a full-time carer for his mother, said he went to confront the group of five children, who ranged in age from nine up to 13, and said he picked up a stick to defend himself as he could not see how old the group was.
Magistrates heard that when Gregory reached the group, he leant over his waist-high fence and grabbed one of the children by the shoulder and hit him on the head with the bat, causing the boy’s head to swell.
He only let go of the boy when a nearby adult neighbour Rebecca Cilliers came over and said she would call the police.
The nine-year-old victim, who gave evidence via a video link, said: ‘He wouldn’t let go of me so I couldn’t get off, then he hit me around the head.
‘He didn’t even let me go to see if I was okay or anything. It just seemed really mean.’
When the victim’s mother approached the group moments later, after one of the group had run to fetch her, the boy ran to her and started crying.
She added: ‘I was quite angry as no-one should do that to anybody else especially not to the youngest one there.’
Gregory admitted being cross with the boys after they had broken a ‘keep out’ sign that he had nailed to the tree earlier that day, but denied hurting the boy, saying he had used reasonable force to detain him under a citizen’s arrest for criminal damage.
Prosecutor Claire Ross said the children were simply playing in the council-owned woods, laughing and having fun building a den, and they were left scared by the attack.
Chairwoman of the magistrates Felicity Boraston said: ‘There was a bat taken down into the garden.
‘We find it was because the two witnesses said that it was and that it had writing on it.
‘We find that it did happen as the witnesses were very credible especially Mrs Cilliers, who was not only very credible not also dispassionate in this case.’
Bespectacled Gregory, of Elsfred Road, Hill Head, will reappear at Fareham Magistrates’ Court for sentencing on October 21.
Boy’s family welcome verdict
The grandparents and mother of the nine-year-old boy who was hit with the baseball bat have spoken of their relief at the conviction.
The boy’s mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: ‘It is a relief. I am glad that it is ‘over and he has got what he deserved’.
‘I am in shock as I had prepared myself for the worst.’
His grandfather said: ‘Boys have built dens for time immemorial. There is no excuse to do what he has done.
‘I’m glad that it has been proven
that he hit him with a bat and that he went down to the bottom of the garden with the intention of using it.’