Trial collapses after no show at court

Protesters are separated from the Britain First demo at the Park Lane club in Bryn in July

Protesters are separated from the Britain First demo at the Park Lane club in Bryn in July

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THE trial of a Wigan council worker accused of assaulting a leader of one of the country’s most controversial political groups has spectacularly collapsed.

Janet Henry was arrested at a July 6 demonstration called to protest about the extreme right wing Britain First, notorious for its policy of invading mosques and Asian community centres, while it was holding a regional rally at the Park Lane Social Club in Bryn.

The youth worker was later charged with allegedly beating Britain First founder and fund-raiser Rev James Dowson during a confrontation outside the doors to the club.

She was also charged with knocking his mobile phone from his hand, causing £20 criminal damage.

Miss Henry, of Standish, had formally denied the charges in August and appeared at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court this week for summary trial.

The chairman of the bench ruled that Miss Henry be found not guilty after complainant and main witness Rev Dowson’s unexplained failure to travel from Northern Ireland to give evidence.

Miss Henry, who was at the demo as a private citizen rather than representing the council, had been suspended from duties by the authority since being charged.

The 45-year-old didn’t want to comment after the court gave its decision.

Her defence was “privately funded” and the court agreed to reimburse the costs.

Justices had earlier declined to further adjourn the case after being warned that Rev Dowson, who had received a written witness warning confirmation earlier in the summer, failed to report to the court or offer any explanation for his absence.

Prosecuting counsel Nigel Beeson revealed that frantic efforts to contact him in his home town base of Newtownards, County Down, Northern Ireland, earlier that day, had been totally unsuccessful.

The former Calvinist Minister and Orangeman Rev Dowson has now left Britain First - he was Head of Administration - over policy differences

Counsel Mr Beeson said: “I have no information I am afraid as to why he has chosen not to trouble us with his presence here today.

“Were he able to join us I am confident that he would most certainly have made his presence known.”

His absence meant that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was only able to offer a secondary police sergeant witness.

Because the magistrates had ordered that the trial go ahead without complainant Rev Dowson, Mr Beeson suggested that the chances of possible proving its case were now fatally damaged.

He said: “Rather, I fear, like the captain of the Titanic finally spotting that iceberg.”

After a further short break to allow consultation with chiefs at the CPS in Manchester, he advised justices that he had been advised to ask for the withdrawal of its case.

Helen White, defending, said that Miss Henry “has not worked and wouldn’t be able to work” until the proceedings were concluded.

And she made a long submission that a further adjournment would not have been in the interests of judgement and would have infringed Miss Henry’s human rights, while “hindering the recollections” of witnesses over an event that had allegedly occured more than three months ago.

Rev Dowson is a former BNP fund raiser and anti-abortionist with the UK LIfeLeague.

He left the BNP to co-founded Britain First in 2011 with former BNP councillor Paul Golding but stepped down from the party in late summer, while Head of Administration, after policy differences with Britain First.

A Wigan Council spokesman said: “We can confirm a Wigan Council employee was suspended following an arrest unrelated to her work at the council.

“We cannot comment further.”