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Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock's son in court accused of attacking photographer
The son of MP Mike Hancock headbutted and punched a press photographer in an attack involving such ''tremendous force'' that both his feet were off the ground as he assaulted him, a court has heard.
Dean Hancock denies a charge of assault causing actual bodily harm in connection with the incident involving Steve Reigate of the Daily Express.
The 37-year-old also denies a charge of criminal damage of breaking a photographic lens belonging to Mr Reigate worth £2,000.
Vivian Ducie, prosecuting, described how Mr Reigate and a couple of journalists had gathered outside the Hancock family home in order to gain a comment and images of Mr Hancock Senior.
The defendant's father was making headlines at the time as he is being sued in the High Court by a ''vulnerable'' female constituent who alleges that the MP for Portsmouth South sexually assaulted her.
The 68-year-old, who denies the allegations, had just been suspended from the Liberal Democrat party until the outcome of the civil case.
Mr Ducie said: ''Mr Hancock's father is a local MP and during January of this year had attracted some attention from the press.
''During the build-up to the assault it became apparent from comments made by Dean Hancock that he was not very impressed by the press being there at all.''
He said that at 9.20am, the defendant's mother, Jacqui, started to leave the property in her car and was accompanied by her son who shielded her using an umbrella.
Mr Ducie, who said that the alleged attack was captured by film and photographic images, said: ''He makes certain comments to the press that are there and effectively prods the umbrella in the direction of several of them.
''The car reverses out, in the confusion the car makes contact with Dean Hancock who is knocked over or into.
''Steve Reigate is in front of the car and is intending to photograph Mrs Hancock, it's at that point that Dean Hancock simply loses all control of himself and attacks Steve Reigate.
''You can see the ferocity which Mr Hancock is attacking Steve Reigate because both his feet are off the ground.
''The prosecution contention is he must have been using some tremendous force.''
Mr Reigate told the court that he had not expected trouble when he went to the Hancock house as he had been there previously without problem.
He said: ''I had been on two previous occasions, on both of those occasions Mr Hancock Senior had come out of the house and posed for a photograph so we didn't expect any aggression towards us.
''The day before, Mr Hancock had been suspended by the Liberal Democrats so there was some legitimate justification for being there.''
Mr Reigate said that he walked about 30 yards down the road in order to take a photograph of Mrs Hancock.
After she had driven away, the defendant approached him and attacked him, Mr Reigate said.
He continued: ''It's not unusual in our job for people to throw a bit of abuse at us, it's part and parcel unfortunately of what we do.
''I was prepared to be called something unpleasant but instead Mr Hancock came straight up to me and headbutted me in the face, between the bridge of my nose and my forehead, at which point I put my hands forward, in one I had a camera in, to defend myself.''
He added: ''Mr Hancock then proceeded to punch me five or six times around the head with some force.
''I made no attempt to retaliate apart from to deflect the blows in self defence, I had said nothing to provoke him.
''He eventually stopped hitting me and made to go back into the house. I told him I was going to phone the police and he said I could phone whoever I liked.''
Mr Reigate said that he suffered an injury to his nose and a split lip.
Footage of the incident filmed by freelance cameraman Paul Wellings for ITN was shown to the court.
Mr Wellings said that as the defendant came out of the house he began swearing at the press, apparently directed towards Mr Reigate.
He said: ''I said to Steve Reigate, 'he doesn't seem to like you'.''
Mr Wellings said that as the altercation was taking place he ran over while filming the incident in which he saw Mr Hancock throwing punches at the photographer.
He said he saw Mr Reigate defending himself and said: ''I didn't see him throw any punches, I saw him shielding himself and backing away.''
In the footage, Mr Reigate is heard to say: ''He came over and he just pushed me because I stood up for myself, he headbutted me, because I threw a punch he went ..... mad.''
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