A regional newspaper publisher has cleared his name after being convicted in February of headbutting a man outside a pub.
Danny Lockwood, publisher and founder of The Press in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, overturned his conviction after an appeal hearing at Leeds Crown Court.
Liam Ellis, 24, a Huddersfield University student and barman at the Fox and Hounds pub in Dewsbury, had claimed that he was left needing stitches in his cheekbone after an unprovoked attack by Lockwood in April 2013.
Lockwood, 55, was found guilty of assault in February after a trial at Kirklees Magistrates’ Court.
But after the appeal hearing at Leeds Crown Court last Friday, Judge James Spencer QC – along with Justices Coulson and Collins – overturned the conviction.
Judge Spencer said they did not believe the injuries had been inflicted deliberately by a head butt and said Lockwood acted lawfully and in self defence.
Lockwood told Press Gazette today that he gone to the pub for a quiet drink when the man approached him and started criticising him and the paper.
He said: “I tried to reason with the guy but he wasn’t going away. I just said ‘I’ve had enough of this son’, tapped him on the shoulder and went.
“He followed me outside and he came at me. There was a brief melee and I forced him back on to the pub porch, walked away and left. The next thing I knew about it was the phone-call from the police. Since then it has been a nightmare for 15 months.”
Judge Spencer said it was reasonable to believe that Lockwood thought he was in danger of “imminent attack” when he saw Ellis.
“We are also satisfied so that we can be sure that there was no deliberate head butt.
“In all the circumstances … we feel that it is entirely reasonable for him to have perceived to have been in danger. And therefore his reaction was reasonable and lawful.”
The judge awarded costs to Lockwood, who said the real cost of the ordeal has been to his reputation.
“I’ve been a journalist for 36 years and been an editor and publisher for more than 20. Sometimes all you have is your reputation, for whatever that’s worth."
He said that at one point an anonymous individual wrote to every advertiser on The Press asking them to boycott the paper.
Lockwood founded The Press in 2002 and also runs League Weekly (about rugby league) and a monthly title called Yorkshire Golfer.
The Press has a weekly circulation of 3,000 paid-for and up to 14,000 free. Lockwood said that last year business was up 20 per cent year on year.