Tycoon Nicholas von Hessen cleared over Hove car park row

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Nicholas Adolf von Hessen - formerly named Nicholas van Hoogstraten - arrives at Brighton and Hove Magistrates' CourtImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
Magistrates said von Hessen's words were "unpleasant and rude" but he was not confrontational

A property tycoon accused of using a homophobic term in front of a police officer has walked free from court.

Nicholas Adolf von Hessen's son was arrested during a row over clamping at a car park in Hove last August.

The businessman - formerly Nicholas van Hoogstraten - admitted using the word "poofter", but denied it was "in any way offensive".

Magistrates in Brighton found him not guilty of behaviour causing harassment, alarm or distress.

Police were called to the private car park, owned by Mr von Hessen, 75, after a man complained his car had been clamped illegally, the court heard.

Describing bodycam footage of the arrest, prosecutor Melanie Wotton said: "His son is shouting and at that point Mr von Hessen says 'he's a poof' to PC Breeds.

"No other swear words were used but in my submission no other swear words have to be used.

"It is (a) derogatory and abusive term."

'Said quietly'

Giving evidence, arresting officer PC James Breeds said the use of the word was undermining and something "you should not have to hear".

During his own testimony, Mr von Hessen said the words he used were "maybe he's a poofter as well".

He suggested to the court that the term was not "in any way offensive".

Returning the panel's verdict, magistrate Barbara Dart said Mr von Hessen had not been confrontational.

She accepted his words were "unpleasant and rude" but said they were "said quietly and directed towards his son".

The panel did not think Mr von Hessen's actions in this case passed the criminal standard, Ms Dart added.

Outside court, Mr von Hessen called the proceedings "laughable, a complete waste of public money and a disgrace".

"I'm pleased to see that there's still a semblance of British justice. It shouldn't have got off the ground in the first place," he said.

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