Solicitor to pay pounds 1,000 over office assault

Battle of Belgravia: Victory for property developer's wife
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The Independent Online
REBECCA FOWLER

The wife of a wealthy property developer won the so-called battle of Belgravia yesterday, after her husband's solicitor was ordered to pay her pounds 1,000 compensation after he was found guilty of assaulting her by throwing her out of his offices in a dispute over a bill.

The drama unfolded at the sedate offices of Messrs Child and Child in London last April, when Laura Harold, 32, refused to leave without the deeds to her pounds 1m home. She was dragged through the reception by Allen Chubb, 52, a senior partner, scattering her fur coat, mobile telephone and shoes along the way. She was then "rugby tackled" and pinned to the ground when she returned for her belongings.

Despite his claim that he used "reasonable force" to evict Mrs Harold, and spoke to her like a "kindly old policeman", Mr Chubb now faces a legal bill of pounds 40,000 for taking the law into his own hands. He may also be struck off after 27 years in the profession.

Mrs Harold, a former beauty therapist who is slightly built, did not hear the verdict at Inner London Crown Court because she was on her way to the airport in a chauffeur-driven Bentley for a holiday in Italy with her mother. Her family said she was elated by the result.

Michael Harold, her husband, punched the air with happiness and called her on her mobile telephone to tell her she had won her private prosecution. He said: "She's delighted and so am I."

The jury found Mr Chubb, a former special constable and father of three, who was accused of being a "self-important, pompous bully" who enjoyed authority, guilty on both charges of assault, causing actual bodily harm, and false imprisonment.

The scene had bewildered onlookers on 28 April when Mrs Harold, 5ft 2in and seven and three-quarter stone, was dragged by her arm through the offices, shouting "I can't believe this is happening". She was then thrown down the stone steps outside the office, where Mr Chubb 6ft 3in and 14 and a half stone, also toppled over.

Mr Chubb, who refused to hand over the deeds to her home in nearby Chester Square until an alleged outstanding bill for pounds 3,500 was paid, reverted to violence when she refused to leave without the papers. Mrs Harold claimed he was exposing her to "blackmail."

When she returned for her fur coat, Mrs Harold was pinned down for five minutes by Mr Chubb, in which time two other clients walked over her. Mrs Harold told the court: "I thought he was going to kill me. I thought he would break my back. It was like something from a Wild West film."

The incident was said to have left Mrs Harold with multiple bruising, suffering depression and flashbacks to the solicitor's face. A consultant psychiatrist, who said she was not a "histrionic woman", claimed Mrs Harold had difficulty coping with her two young children, and had nightmares.

Mr Chubb, who was accompanied by a female colleague throughout the incident, insisted he behaved in a gentlemanly manner. When he was asked if he would have used force against Mr Harold, "an East End boy made good", he said he might have done, and denied he was used to dealing with a clients from a different class.

He claimed Mrs Harold was "out of control" and had charged at him like "a rugby prop forward", with her head down, on her return to the office. He said he talked to her throughout, saying: "Come on Mrs Harold, out we go."

The Solicitors Complaints Bureau, which handles alleged misconduct, said its Conduct Committee will consider Mr Chubb's fate after reading all the papers from the case. A spokesman said: "They will then decide whether or not the solicitor needs to be referred for disciplinary proceedings."

The bureau's powers of discipline vary from a reprimand, a fine, a suspension or, at worst, striking Mr Chubb from the roll of solicitors.

Judge Roderick Adams, passing sentence, told Mr Chubb: "I recognise that these convictions might well have serious repercussions on your professional life . . . I don't think it is necessary to impose any punishment upon you apart from ordering compensation."

Mrs Harold's relatives said they would mark her victory at a nightclub. Her brother William Bullard, 29, a company director, said she could rest after a year of stress. He said: "She has gone through a terrible year mentally. We will be celebrating tonight at Annabel's."

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