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Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock's son Dean Hancock guilty of attacking photographer Steve Reigate
The son of MP Mike Hancock has been found guilty of ''losing control'' and using ''tremendous force'' to headbutt and punch a press photographer.
Dean Hancock was convicted at Portsmouth Magistrates' Court of the charge of assault causing actual bodily harm against Steve Reigate of the Daily Express.
The 37-year-old pipe-fitter, who will celebrate his birthday tomorrow, was also found guilty of causing criminal damage to a camera lens and flashgun belonging to Mr Reigate worth more than £2,300.
District Judge Anne Arnold said that she did not find Hancock a ''credible witness'', and said: ''I find that the defendant throughout the events, as demonstrated by the footage I have seen, was the aggressor and assaulted Mr Reigate first by headbutting him and caused the injuries which I have seen the photos and heard evidence about and I am satisfied amount in law to actual bodily harm.''
Adjourning the case for sentencing and asking for Hancock to be assessed by the Probation Service, she said: ''With a man of good character I do not consider that the offence is so serious that it only deserves custody.''
She added that she felt a community punishment would be appropriate.
Judge Arnold adjourned the case for sentencing on June 25 and Hancock was released on unconditional bail until then.
The fracas happened outside the family home in Rockingham Way, Portchester, Fareham, on January 23 after journalists and photographers had been waiting outside hoping to talk to the defendant's father.
The MP for Portsmouth South was making headlines at the time as he is being sued in the High Court by a ''vulnerable'' female constituent who alleges that he sexually assaulted her.
The 68-year-old, who denies the allegations, had just been suspended from the Liberal Democrats party until the outcome of the civil case.
Vivian Ducie, prosecuting, said: ''Mr Hancock's father is a local MP and during January of this year had attracted some attention from the press.
''During the build-up to the alleged assault it became apparent from comments made by Dean Hancock that he was not very impressed by the press being there at all.''
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, who said that the attack was captured by film and photographic images, said: ''He makes certain comments to the press that are there and effectively prods the umbrella in the direction of several of them.
''The car reverses out, in the confusion the car makes contact with Dean Hancock who is knocked over.
''Steve Reigate is in front of the car and is intending to photograph Mrs Hancock, it's at that point that Dean Hancock simply loses all control of himself and attacks Steve Reigate.
''You can see the ferocity which Mr Hancock is attacking Steve Reigate because both his feet are off the ground.
''The prosecution contention is he must have been using some tremendous force.''
Mr Reigate told the court that he had not expected trouble when he went to the Hancock house as he had been there previously without problem.
He said: ''I had been on two previous occasions, on both of those occasions Mr Hancock senior had come out of the house and posed for a photograph so we didn't expect any aggression towards us.
''The day before, Mr Hancock had been suspended by the Liberal Democrats so there was some legitimate justification for being there.''
Mr Reigate said that he walked about 30 yards down the road in order to take a photograph of Mrs Hancock.
After she had driven away, the defendant approached him and attacked him, Mr Reigate said.
He continued: ''It's not unusual in our job for people to throw a bit of abuse at us, it's part and parcel unfortunately of what we do.
''I was prepared to be called something unpleasant but instead Mr Hancock came straight up to me and headbutted 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 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 headbutted Mr Reigate but said that they had ''exchanged blows'' with himself suffering facial injuries in the incident.
He said: ''Steve Reigate struck me, I acted in self defence and I defended myself as I would if anyone hit me, I wouldn't let them.
''This was outside my home, these people had come to my door, hassled my family, then the man had the audacity to strike me in the stomach.
''I think that was a step too far for most people. My instinct was very strong and my emotions were very high.''
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.
He also suggested that Mr Reigate had touched up photos of his injuries using Photoshop or make-up to make them look worse and had also thrown his camera deliberately to the ground which Mr Ducie said were ''outrageous'' allegations.
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