Court is told police officer CS-gassed Victoria Park's Arts Lodge tenant after being threatened with a mop during eviction stand-off
ARTS LODGE tenant Mark Lewis was CS-sprayed by police during an eviction after he allegedly '˜threw a table' at an officer and '˜thrust' a wet mop at another PC's head, a court heard.
Lewis, 49, is on trial accused of assaults on PC Laurence McDevitt and PC Sinead Butler during a ‘highly emotional’ eviction on February 7 at the Arts Lodge in Victoria Park, Portsmouth.
The former tenant had run the lodge for 17 years and saved it from demolition when he took over but was ordered out by Portsmouth City Council, a judge was told today.
Supporters of Lewis and Brett were filming and live-streaming the incident in the park.
Lewis denies assaulting the PCs, and denies using threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause fear of or provoke unlawful violence.
His partner Alison Brett, 52, denies assaulting PC McDevitt in the incident by punching him in the back as Lewis was on his knees being arrested in the lodge courtyard.
Brighton Magistrates’ Court heard today Portsmouth City Council’s locksmith was changing the locks before 9am as Lewis had not returned keys the day before.
Police body-worn video footage played of the two officers’ arrival showed Lewis before the alleged assaults saying: ‘We’re fighting to the end. If you want to send more coppers it’s up to you.
‘This is going to look really bad on everyone except us.’
The court heard more protesters gathered at the eviction with at first two officers then later eight officers present.
Portsmouth City Council had gone in before 9am to change the locks after Lewis had not returned the keys before, prosecutor Dominic Dudkowski said.
Footage recorded by PC McDevitt, who stood at the gate of the courtyard to block access, showed much of the incident in the narrow outdoor courtyard.
Giving evidence, PC McDevitt said: ‘As I was stood by the gate, I believe I said to the locksmith he could change the locks.
‘Immediately Mr Lewis barged past me pushing me into the courtyard and then picked up the table and threw it at me.’
He added: ‘I’ve taken hold of Mr Lewis and told him to calm down.
‘He’s then immediately further gone into the courtyard.
‘He’s picked up a broom smacking it down on table.
‘He’s shouting at myself and PC Butler to “come on then, come on then”.’
PC McDevitt added: ‘I took that as Mr Lewis wanted to fight us, I immediately shouted to him to put the broom down.
‘He carried on banging it on the stable.
‘I then drew CS gas, pointed it towards him to tell him to put the broom down. He eventually put the broom down.’
Both Brett and another man were in the courtyard at this point.
PC McDevitt said: ‘Immediately after that Mr Lewis then picked up another item which I believe was a mop and started banging it down and thrusting it towards the face of PC Butler.
‘I said to Mr Lewis again to drop the mop, I said that many times, he didn’t drop the mop so I CS gassed him.’
In footage played to the court PC Butler told colleagues Lewis was ‘whacking (the mop) down at me’, while PC McDevitt said ‘my knee is the size of a balloon’ after saying a table had hit his knee.
Quizzing the male officer, Robert Ashworth, for Lewis, said: ‘The first contact is you quite aggressively grabbing him and pushing him up against the table and telling him to calm down.’
PC McDevitt replied: ‘As far as I’m concerned as he barged me he did make contact and that’s why I’ve taken hold of him and told him to calm down.’
The officer said it was a ‘genuine mistake’ that he put in his statement his right knee was injured, when in court today he said it had been his left.
Asked by Amy Oliver, for Brett, if he said ‘somebody punched me was it her?’ then ‘well I was grabbed or punched or certainly grabbed’, then in a statement said he felt ‘a punch to my back on the right shoulder blade’, and then today in court said he ‘felt two blows to my right shoulder’.
She said: What you’re saying today doesn’t correspond with what you felt and experienced on the day’.
The officer replied: ‘It’s exactly how it happened on the day’.
Both Brett and Lewis, of Clarence Parade, Southsea, were arrested and later interviewed.
There were fewer than 10 protesters around with four or five people from the council, including two security and the locksmith, PC Butler said.
The city council’s commercial property manager Jo Bennett’s statement said protesters remained at the Arts Lodge after the arrests.
Reading the statement prosecutor Mr Dudkowski said: ‘A police inspector arrived.
‘He arrived shortly after all negotiations failed and he asked if I wanted them removed.
‘I explained I did. The inspector then agreed they were committing the offence of aggravated trespass and the police had to removed them by force.
‘The gate was then secured.’
A termination letter was sent to Lewis on May 18 the year before, the court heard.