Artist convicted over Arts Lodge eviction in Portsmouth: I’ll be back by next year

Alison Brett and Mark Lewis outside Portsmouth Magistrates Court at a previous hearing
Alison Brett and Mark Lewis outside Portsmouth Magistrates Court at a previous hearing
Picture: Malcolm Wells

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ARTIST Mark Lewis has vowed to get back into the Arts Lodge at Victoria Park, Portsmouth, within months — despite being convicted of assaulting two police officers when he was evicted.

The self-employed muralist ‘barged’ past a police officer who was standing in the gateway to the city arts lodge at the eviction on February 7.

District judge Teresa Szagun ruled Lewis, 49, had been ‘reckless’ in assaulting an officer after throwing a table and thrusting a mop towards another PC.

‘I find it’s a clear demonstration of Mr Lewis intending to use violence against the officers to prevent them from removing him from the premises,’ the judge said.

But yesterday outside the courtroom, homeless Lewis told The News: ‘I want to think about getting back into the lodge with a good team as Portsmouth’s cultural hub.’

He hopes to be back in the lodge, which Portsmouth City Council repossessed in order to use as a place to teach adults with learning difficulties, next May.

Lewis said he hoped the Conservative administration would lose power in the elections next year, paving the way for a new administration to let him back in.

Brighton Magistrates’ Court yesterday heard how, on the day of eviction, the council’s locksmith had changed all but the gate’s locks at the lodge before 9am.

But a dispute broke out when Lewis and his partner Alison Brett, 52, arrived.

Footage played in court showed how Lewis barged past PC McDevitt to get into the courtyard before then knocking down a stack of chairs, throwing an aluminium table toward the officers, brandishing a broom, then picking up a wet mop and ‘thrusting’ it toward PC Sinead Butler.

The male officer said, it was heard on the footage, that he supported the lodge — but was left with his knee the ‘size of a balloon’.

PC Butler was hit in the head with the wet mop but suffered no injury.

Lewis, who said he saved the lodge from demolition 17 years ago, was given a 12-month community order with 120 hours of unpaid work and was told to pay £200 compensation to pay PC McDevitt.

The judge convicted Lewis of the two assaults and using threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause fear of or provoke unlawful violence. He had denied the charges.

At a previous hearing Lewis admitted possession of a small amount of cannabis, a class B drug.

At the end of the trial he asked: ‘Can I have the drug back?’ The judge ordered it to be forfeited and destroyed.

Mrs Brett was cleared of a charge of assaulting PC McDevitt after the judge said there was a ‘doubt whether or not he was assaulted’.

The PC said Brett punched him in the back as he was arresting Lewis. Mrs Brett said she put her hand on him.

An investigation was launched yesterday after a member of the public, who watched the trial throughout, claimed he was photographed by Brett in the court foyer.

The Society of St James now runs the lodge.