Devon

Plymouth man cleared of attacking boy

A Plymouth man who tried to protect his elderly neighbours from a gang of teenagers has been cleared of attacking one of the 14-year-old boys.

Mervyn Stephens confronted four youths as they hurled abuse at his neighbours, aged 92 and 84, last October.

He admitted pulling the boy to the ground but denied attacking him with a piece of scaffolding, Plymouth Crown Court heard.

Mr Stephens, 58, said he was relieved that a jury had cleared him of assault.

Ball over fence

Mr Stephens, of Wasdale Close, who suffers from angina and walks with a stick, denied assault causing actual bodily harm.

He told the court that he went to tell the four 14-year-old boys to leave the area after they swore at his neighbours.

They had kicked a ball over a fence and been told by the neighbours that it would not be returned, the court heard.

After threatening to call police, the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, rushed at him.

Mr Stephens dodged a punch and pulled him to the ground before allowing him to get up and telling him to go home.

Differing accounts

The boy told police he was assaulted with a scaffolding pole and his head was knocked against the ground.

The boy's friends claimed to have seen a metal bar but gave differing accounts of how it was held, how many time the boy was hit and on what part of his body, the court heard.

After the three-day trial, Mr Stephens said: "I am very relieved and surprised. I'm so grateful to the jury and glad they saw the truth.

"The last 11 months have been a living nightmare. I haven't been able to sleep because of the worry of it. I felt everything was packed against me.

"This has restored my faith in the jury system. Whatever else the government cuts, they must leave juries alone."

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