The comedian Lee Hurst told a court yesterday that he smashed the mobile phone of an audience member who he thought was filming his show because he wanted to prevent his jokes being stolen.
Appearing at Guildford Magistrates' Court, Hurst pleaded guilty to grabbing Gareth Hughes' £80 Motorola handset, shouting abuse and throwing it to the floor during a performance at the Stoke pub in Guildford, Surrey.
Although he was representing himself, the 46-year-old, a former team captain on the BBC sports quiz They Think It's All Over, said he was speaking on behalf of all comedians. He said: "TV programmes have writers ... [who] ... go around to gigs and take the material and sell it to the BBC and ITV and that material is gone. You are then accused of stealing your own material. It has happened to me. There are thieves amongst the circuit sadly and among the writing community."
Explaining the events of 3 September last year, Hurst said he was coming towards the end of his 30-minute gig when he noticed Mr Hughes standing at the back holding up his mobile with the "light shining towards me".
Hurst told the court that although Mr Hughes claimed he was texting, Hurst was sure he was filming. He said he had no knowledge of how to delete the footage from a phone so, in anger, he smashed it.
The chairman of the bench, Jon Curtis, told him: "Although we have some sympathy with the situation you found yourself in it is clearly not an excuse to cause damage." Hurst was fined £60, and ordered to pay compensation of £80 and £87 costs after admitting a charge of criminal damage.
Outside court he said: "I don't regret what I did because the police wouldn't turn up to defend me, would they? It was in anger but it is like having your tools stolen if your material is taken."