'Very difficult' neighbour guilty of assault on PC
A "VERY DIFFICULT" neighbour cleared of abusing the people living next door has been banned from having any contact with them.
Benjamin Gray, who has a plethora of nuisance offences on his record, was acquitted of threatening Stephen Coombs and Joanne Murray and having an offensive weapon in July last year.
But a jury at Bristol Crown Court convicted 46-year-old Gray, of Boswell Street, Easton, of common assault on a policeman.
Judge Geoffrey Mercer QC said crown court was not the usual place for handling neighbour disputes.
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He was, nevertheless, persuaded to impose an 18-month order, under Section 5(A) of the Protection of Harassment Act, to ban Gray from contact with his neighbours even though he was cleared of threatening them.
The judge, who jailed Gray for four months for the common assault, told him: "You are a man who is self-centred. You have little respect for others.
"You relish confrontation with others and confrontation with the legal system.
"You are a very difficult neighbour to have, I have no doubt at all.
"You are a source of harassment to your neighbours and the order is justified to provide protection for them."
Gray, who sacked his newly appointed barrister Rob Conway after he had travelled from London to represent him, declared his intention to appeal against conviction.
In a trial before Christmas, Gray denied assaulting the policeman as well as threatening his neighbours and having a bike lock as an offensive weapon.
Prosecutor Andrew Macfarlane said PC David Curtis went to Gray's home following an alleged disturbance. The jury heard that when the officer told Gray he intended to handcuff him, Gray took his glasses and jacket off, squared up to the officer and hit him in the shoulder.
Gray was sprayed with CS gas, fell to the floor and was taken to Frenchay Hospital, where it was confirmed he had a shoulder injury.
The jury was given five examples of Gray being abusive or threatening to his neighbours, but found him not guilty.
Gray told the judge he had no intention of visiting his neighbours' home, "unless they kidnap my cat or something".
He suggested the judge ban him from going to the whole of Boswell Street, including his own home.
He said: "Then I could put the house on the market and find somewhere else to live."
Gray said the fact he was cleared of the charges against his neighbours questioned the credibility of their evidence and said his return home exposed him to the risk of further allegations. He told the judge: "I'm a really hard chap. I went to public school and I can take prison.
"Part of me wants to get on with my life, pay my taxes and get a job."
Referring to the assault on the policeman, Gray said he had feared that if he was handcuffed he would be used as a punch bag by police.
He said he did not inflict injury on PC Curtis, and referred to evidence suggesting he threw the blow after he was sprayed with CS gas.
Because Gray has been remanded in custody for the equivalent of a 12- month sentence, his four months' jail term meant he could be immediately released.
Gray, who has represented himself in a number of court cases, notched up convictions for 22 offences between April 1985 and March 2011.
These involve four offences against the person; three offences against property; five public disorder offences; five offences relating to police, court or prison; two drug offences and three miscellaneous offences.