ALLEGATIONS of a bloody punch-up at a Labour constituency meeting have been thrown out after a party member was cleared of an assault charge.
In an all-day trial on Friday, Portsmouth magistrates heard from five witnesses about events which unfolded at a meeting of the Havant Constituency Labour Party (HCLP) on September 12 last year.
Giving evidence for the prosecution’s case, Michael Evans, 68, told the court he was left with ‘a lot of blood’ pouring from his nose and a ‘profusely’ swollen lip after an alleged fracas – as fellow Labour member, defendant Anthony Martin, stormed out of the meeting at the Leigh Park Community Centre.
‘The accused used the F-word and I politely asked if he would refrain,’ said businessman Mr Evans.
‘He looked towards me and there was a lot of anger in his face. He said “I’m off”.’
Mr Evans said what followed was an assault ‘from behind’, claiming Martin hit him at least four times with an umbrella and punched him twice – including one blow to the face – as he passed his table en-route to the exit.
But Martin, who claimed to be a ‘pacifist’, told magistrates he launched no attack – alleging he himself suffered a ‘light blow’ on the back of the head before being grabbed around the neck, after an disagreement on the ‘one-member-one-vote’ leadership reform system.
‘One twist and they could have broken my neck,’ said Martin, who claimed his peers became ‘anarchic’ and ‘very aggressive’.
‘I felt I was wasting my time completely because both sides were arguing.
‘They had been chanting at me – “who are you, who are you, who are you” – for about six or seven seconds.’
Denying Mr Evans’ earlier claims, Martin, a 51-year-old former bodybuilder, said ‘the man scares the willies out of me’.
While he backed up the claim Mr Evans was attacked, prosecution witness Anthony Berry said no chanting took place and he ‘did not hear’ any swearing.
Meanwhile, HCLP secretary Philip Munday said no blows were struck – and chairwoman, Sheree Earnshaw said the trial had ‘blown the argument out of proportion’ and ‘cost the taxpayer money’
Before magistrates came to a verdict, prosecutor Irene Hogarth said the incident occurred at a time when there were issues with the Labour party ‘every time you turn on the television’ – while defence lawyer Simon Moger highlighted clear ‘factions’ in the HCLP.
Later returning a not guilty verdict, bench chairman Nick Mansfield told the court: ‘We cannot be sure Mr Martin did what it is alleged he did.’