Parish council chairman 'feared for his life' as local businessman dragged him by the hair in row over birds nests

26 April 2024, 09:22

Businessman fined for attack on parish council chairman in birds’ nests dispute

By Kit Heren

The chairman of a parish council thought his life was in danger when an enraged local businessman dragged him along the ground by the hair in a row over trees and birds nests.

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Andrew Mason, 63, was lying on the ground in front of some trees in the North Yorkshire village of Church Fenton, to stop workmen hired by Chris Makin, 65, from disturbing the nests with a tree-cutting cherry-picker.

Makin had poked Mr Mason in the face, knocking off his glasses, and then "thrown him to the floor in a kind of headlock", prosecutors told Harrogate Magistrates Court.

The court was then shown footage of "out of control" Makin attacking Mr Mason.

Michael Smith, prosecuting, said: "The defendant scooped Mr Mason's hair into his hands and tried to pull him across the road by his hair."

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Andrew Mason
Andrew Mason. Picture: Alamy

In the video, Mr Mason is seen lying on the floor and can be heard shouting "get off me" and "the police are on their way, you lunatic" as well as calling Makin an "ignorant bully" as the defendant swears at him.

Mr Smith told the court that, at one point, Makin appears to instruct his workmen to move the cherry picker forward as Mr Mason is lying in front of it and the defendant can be heard on the video saying "forward a bit".

In a victim personal statement read to the court, Mr Mason said that, at that point, he thought "my life is in peril".

Also in his statement, the Church Fenton Parish Council chairman expressed dismay that he "could be viciously attacked in broad daylight in the village I love and where I have brought up my children".

Defendant Chris Makin (left) leaves Harrogate Magistrates Court in North Yorkshire after he was fined £4,800
Defendant Chris Makin (left) leaves Harrogate Magistrates Court in North Yorkshire after he was fined £4,800. Picture: Alamy

The court heard that Mr Mason had endured a number of stress-related issues since the attack and suffered sleepless nights.

He said in his statement that he was also left shocked by the foul language used by Makin in front of a number of onlookers.

The prosecutor told magistrates how the incident happened on April 4 2023 when a group of local residents gathered to try to stop contractors working for Makin, who owns the nearby Leeds East Airport, "crowning" trees.

Mr Smith said they were concerned about the birds and that he did not have permission to remove nests nor close the road.

Police had been called earlier and had advised Makin to stop work but the officers had left by the time the assault happened.

Mr Smith told the three magistrates that the defendant used "unreasonable and unnecessary" force after Mr Mason "positioned himself under the cherry-picker" to stop it cutting any more of the trees.

The prosecutor said the defendant had not shown any remorse.

Makin, of Micklefield, North Yorkshire, was found guilty of assault by beating at an earlier trial.

On Thursday, chair of the bench Phil Morris said it was an assault of a "persistent and prolonged nature" and fined him £4,800.

He said this was 250% of his weekly income.

Richard Wright KC, defending, said his client had "learned a salutary lesson" and told the court he had made a "massive contribution to the GDP of the UK".

Mr Wright said Makin was "used to getting on with things and getting a job done in the public interest.

"He wanted to get this job done but went about it the wrong way."

Makin was also ordered to pay a £1,920 surcharge, £775 costs and £684 compensation to Mr Mason.

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