Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Conservative Councillor - Assault

Jon Herbert

When district councillor Jon Herbert's dog escaped and was taken to a local pound he was desperate to get his beloved pet back.

But when South Norfolk Council staff asked him to stump up the necessary fee to collect the stray, a row ensued which culminated in the 52-year-old former chief executive of Norwich Union International attempting to seize his chocolate Labrador and assaulting two members of staff caring for his pet.

Herbert was yesterday found guilty of two counts of common assault and ordered to pay a total of £1,315 after witnesses described how he became "aggressive and downright rude" when he arrived to pick up his errant pet from Meadowgreen Rescue Centre and Kennels at Hales Green, near Loddon, on February 7. He had denied the charges.

Magistrates in Norwich heard how Herbert's dog was taken to the kennels after escaping on Mulbarton common.

After learning of his pet's fate, Herbert contacted the council and was told he would need to pay a fee before collecting the dog.

He was asked to pay £47 to release the dog but he refused to pay this amount and instead said that he would be prepared to pay a lower fee of £32, Norwich Magistrates' Court heard.

But Herbert, who serves as Conservative district councillor for Mulbarton ward, was told by David Osborne, director of environmental health, recycling and safety at South Norfolk Council, that the higher fee was appropriate because his dog had gone astray before.

Mr Osborne said in a statement: "During the conversation Mr Herbert appeared to be very upset and angry because he had to pay to collect the dog. I advised councillor Herbert that we were keen to return his dog but needed £47 to release it.

"Mr Herbert said to me that he would go to the kennels himself and obtain his dog. I advised him that the dog was in our safe keeping and would not be released by the kennel until authorised to do so."

Mr Osborne said he advised Herbert not to go to the kennels and added that Herbert used a swear word several times during the conversation.

The court heard that despite this advice, Herbert, of Norwich Road, Mulbarton, went to the kennels where he blocked the entrance to the premises with his 4x4 vehicle.

The court heard he demanded to see his dog and entered an area of the kennels where the animal was being kept despite a notice which said no entry.

Magistrates were told he assaulted kennel maid Lisa Wigg after she tried to stop him taking his pet. He also assaulted the co-owner of the kennel Cherie Cootes.

Giving evidence, Miss Wigg said that when Herbert arrived he was agitated and that on numerous occasions he said he just wanted his dog.

"I asked him if he had paid the council and he said he hadn't because he was in dispute with them," she said.

Miss Wigg said that Herbert went to the paddock where his dog was being held.

"I said 'you are not allowed in there'. We had a tussle. I tried to stand my ground. He grabbed me, picked me up and moved me. He went and grabbed his dog out of the paddock. He was doing a lot of shouting."

Dennis Sawyer, who was at the kennels to rehome a dog at the time, described Herbert's demeanour as "aggressive and downright rude."

Herbert claimed in court that he found his dog in an atrocious condition in a sea of mud.

He accepted that he had used immoderate language and that he was agitated and that there had been contact between himself and the two women, but he said he had "absolutely no intention to cause any sort of violence".

Magistrates found him guilty of two counts of common assault and ordered him to pay £250 to each of the victims, a fine of £250 on each of the charges, £15 victim surcharge and £300 in prosecution costs, taking the total payable to £1,315.

Speaking after the hearing Herbert said: "It was clearly a difficult decision for them in weighing the evidence, given the time of over an hour it took in making a decision. I am obviously disappointed with the result."

Speaking after the case, South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller described Herbert's conviction as a "personal tragedy" and said he felt sorry for the people concerned.

"As a member of the Conservative group he was suspended when the case came up in February, and his application for membership renewal will be reconsidered at the new group meeting.

"As regards his role as a councillor, this is something we will have to discuss."


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