Arts Lodge tenant found guilty of assaulting police with wet mop and table during Victoria Park eviction stand-off

Alison Brett and Mark Lewis outside Portsmouth Magistrates' Court at an earlier hearing
Alison Brett and Mark Lewis outside Portsmouth Magistrates' Court at an earlier hearing

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ARTIST Mark Lewis has been found guilty of assaulting two police officers with a wet mop and table during an eviction from the Arts Lodge.

The self-employed muralist, 49, was today convicted over the incident at Victoria Park in Portsmouth on February 7.

Portsmouth City Council was in the process of evicting him when he assaulted PC Laurence McDevitt in a ‘reckless’ assault after throwing a table in the courtyard of the lodge.

The officer had said, on body-worn footage played to Brighton Magistrates’ Court, that he supported the lodge staying open.

District judge Teresa Szagun said Lewis believed he was ‘unjustifiably being evicted’ but that the officer was acting lawfully and was not biased against him.

The judge said Lewis intended for the officers to be unable to remove him so he could ‘bide’ his time and barricade himself in the courtyard.

Lewis, formerly of Clarence Parade, Southsea, but now homeless, was convicted of assaulting PC Sinead Butler with the wet end of a mop when he ‘thrust’ it towards her head in the incident.

The judge found him guilty of using threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause fear of or provoke unlawful violence.

He had used a broom in the courtyard and shouted ‘come on’, the court heard.

Judge Szagun said: ‘These officers showed no bias or over reaction to the situation they were dealing with.

‘PC Butler didn’t attempt to exaggerate the contact with the mop and PC McDevitt indicated his actual support for the cafe remaining open.

‘For those reasons I’m sure that on the evidence they gave in relation to these offences against Mr Lewis that he is guilty of the offences, all three of them.’

But the judge cleared Lewis’ partner Alison Brett, 52, of Clarence Parade, Avenue, of a single charge of assaulting PC McDevitt.

She had been accused of punching him in the back as he arrested Lewis.

Finding her not guilty, the judge said: ‘I do have a doubt whether or not he was assaulted and if so by Mrs Brett.

‘It seems to me she may have been guilty of obstructing a police officer.

‘She’s not charged with that, I have to give her the benefit of the doubt in terms of the assault (allegation) and have to acquit her.’

Sentencing, the judge handed Lewis a one-year community order with 120 hours of unpaid work and £200 compensation to PC McDevitt.

She said his actions were ‘serious enough’ to justify the order but added: ‘In assessing that I take into account all the surrounding circumstances in terms of your own genuine hard work that went into establishing these premises.’