A Scarborough businessman has been cleared of assaulting another man during an access dispute more than 18 months ago.
Joseph Ferns, the owner of Café Jardin in Huntriss Row, Scarborough successfully appealed against his conviction on Friday at Leeds Crown Court without having to give evidence.
Mr Ferns, 49 of Carlswood Mount, Glaisdale, Whitby, had denied assaulting Vincent Julian Reed on July 22, 2014 but was previously found guilty of the offence at Scarborough Magistrates Court.
Jonathan Holsgrove representing the prosecution said the incident happened when they were involved in an altercation about access along a passageway from Huntriss Row to another premises, The Potters Wheel where Mr Reed intended to open a business.
He said there had been a verbal exchange of words earlier that day and in the afternoon, Michael Shannon an associate of Mr Reed had tried to go down the passageway to meet him there but had been told by Mr Ferns it was private property.
Mr Holsgrove said Mr Shannon had phoned Mr Reed and he began walking up the passageway towards him. Meanwhile Mr Ferns who had been removing a sign while up a ladder had come down from the ladder and gone towards Mr Reed.
Mr Reed, who said he had been having treatment for bladder cancer, claimed he was pushed in the chest by Mr Ferns who had his fists clenched and while he was holding a spanner, the impact causing him to stumble back and bang his head and suffer reddening and bruising to his chest.
Mr Ferns told the police in a video recorded interview played in court: “He came at me, I went to him, both of us had our arms up at the same time.”
He said he was angry but had not assaulted him and had forgotten he was holding the spanner when he came down the ladder.
Before the appellant was called to give evidence Recorder Jeremy Hill-Baker sitting with two magistrates briefly adjourned the hearing and when they returned they said they did not need to hear any more of the case before allowing the appeal.
He said it was the respondent’s duty to prove the case that there was an assault “in other words an application of force,” in this case “causing a minor injury, reddening to the chest” and that it was unlawful and not as a result of accidental contact and they were not so satisfied.
“One or two facts about this case cause us concern. We say from the outset that it is apparent that the two parties, the appellant and respondent have quite plainly fallen out and been at loggerheads with each other over access to the premises The Potters Wheel, at the rear of Café Jardin.
“It is unfortunate it has come to court at all, that two grown men could not resolve their difficulties in a more sensible fashion.”
He said significantly Mr Shannon had described in his evidence the two men “coming together” in a narrow corridor and “saw no blows being thrown”.
In reaching their decision he said they had also taken into account if it was being said Mr Ferns was prepared to use violence, that at the time he was holding a spanner yet at no point had utilised it.