The son of Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock has been ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and pay more than £2,000 in compensation for head-butting and punching a press photographer.
Dean Hancock had expressed regret at his “loss of control” and accepted that he was the more aggressive party when he attacked Steve Reigate of the Daily Express with “tremendous force”, Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court was told.
The 38-year-old unemployed pipe-fitter was found guilty of causing the photographer actual bodily harm and criminal damage to a camera lens and flashgun belonging to Mr Reigate.
District Judge Anne Arnold described the attack, which happened outside the family home in Rockingham Way, Portchester, Fareham, Hampshire, on January 23, as a “red mist situation”.
She sentenced him to a 12-month community order comprising of 200 hours unpaid work and ordered that he pay a total of £2,951.20 in compensation and court costs.
Kate Watts, representing Hancock, said he had found work as a welder with his brother in Sheffield following his conviction and that he had accepted he was the more aggressive party.
She said: “He has always accepted that he should not have done what he did.
“Even recently, the press are still there at his house and he handles them very well.
“This is a moment I do not feel he will ever repeat again.”
During the trial, the court was told the fracas occurred while journalists and photographers were waiting outside hoping to talk to the defendant’s father.
The MP was making headlines at the time as he was being sued in the High Court by a “vulnerable” female constituent who alleged that he sexually assaulted her.
The 68-year-old, who has since settled the court action, had just been suspended from the Liberal Democrat Party.
Vivian Ducie, prosecuting, told the trial that the assault happened after a number of members of the press were gathered outside the Hancock family house and the defendant had not been “very impressed” by them being there.
He said that at 9.20am, the defendant’s mother, Jacqui, started to leave the property in her car and was accompanied by her son who shielded her using an umbrella.
Mr Ducie said that after Mrs Hancock had driven away, he walked over to Mr Reigate and attacked him “using some tremendous force”.
Mr Reigate told the court that he had not expected trouble when he went to theHancock house as he had been there previously without problem.
He said: “I was prepared to be called something unpleasant but instead Mr Hancockcame straight up to me and head-butted me in the face, between the bridge of my nose and my forehead, at which point I put my hands forward, in one I had a camera in, to defend myself.”
Mr Reigate said that he suffered an injury to his nose and a split lip.
Footage of the incident filmed by freelance cameraman Paul Wellings for ITN was also shown to the court.
Hancock admitted swearing at the journalists but claimed that he only hit Mr Reigate out of self defence after he said the photographer struck him in the stomach.
He denied that he had head-butted Mr Reigate but said that they had “exchanged blows” with himself suffering facial injuries in the incident.
Hancock said that he had dealt with the press over many years and had never threatened or attacked anyone but did admit that he would “bait” journalists by deliberately opening the front door in a bid to make them believe his father was leaving the property.
Hancock did not make any comment as he left the court.