Freelance snapper wins pay-out after car fracas

The husband of an East Sussex councillor has made an out-of-court settlement to a freelance photographer, despite denying allegations he attacked him and caused criminal damage to his car.

Jonathan Freeman agreed to pay out £1,235 following a fracas involving photographer Eddie Mitchell and Brighton Argus reporter Andrew Dickenson in December 2005.

Mitchell was covering the then ongoing story of Lewes District Council leader Ann de Vecchi’s opposition to plans for Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club’s new stadium in nearby Falmer and door-stepped her at home.

The councillor’s husband Freeman allegedly told Argus reporter Dickenson to ‘leave before I cut your bollocks off”, before becoming involved in a fracas with the pair which led to Mitchell’s car being damaged.

Mitchell took pictures of the alleged attack and resulting marks on his face and, using legal cover from his house insurance, tried to bring a case against Freeman, but CPS Sussex concluded that there was insufficient evidence.

Influenced decision

Mitchell, represented by solicitors, claimed that Freeman’s standing as a retired superintendent for Sussex Police had influenced the CPS’s subsequent decision not to prosecute. Freeman would not admit liability, but has agreed to the pay out.

In a comment piece, The Argus had said that in view of the evidence available it was ‘surprised’that the authorities did not consider it sufficient to bring the matter before magistrates.

In February 2006, Mitchell, who was freelancing for The Argus, took the case to the head of CPS Sussex.

An Eastbourne Crown Prosecution Service official said in a letter to Mitchell: ‘I have found no evidence to show that CPS Sussex was improperly influenced in its decision making by the fact that Mr Freeman was a retired police officer.”

Mitchell said: ‘I do believe that his former position had a great bearing on whether he was prosecuted or not. I’m glad it’s over with and I’m pleased he’s paid up. I’m no better off financially because the car was written off.”

Work finally begins on Brighton’s new stadium later this year.

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