Prescott escapes prosecution over punch-up

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Indy Politics

Charges will not be brought against the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, over his scuffle with an egg-throwing protester during the general election campaign, police announced yesterday.

North Wales Police had sent details of the incident – in which Mr Prescott punched a farm worker, Craig Evans, and wrestled him to the ground – to the Crown Prosecution Service.

A police spokesman said: "The Crown Prosecution Service has conducted a careful review of the substantial file of evidence and video material presented by investigators.

"The conclusion, in Mr Prescott's case, is that, for reasons of self-defence, there is not a realistic prospect of a conviction.

"In Mr Evans's case, the CPS has concluded that a prosecution would serve no useful purpose, taking into account the minor nature of the assault, as well as the fact that he suffered some minor injury himself and spent several hours in police custody afterwards."

The clash occurred as Mr Prescott was heckled by countryside campaigners during a visit on to Rhyl on 16 May, where he was due to address Labour Party members. An egg thrown at him missed, but then a second struck him on the head, leading him to punch Mr Evans. The two men grappled on the ground before being pulled apart by party officials.

Television footage of the scuffle electrified the election campaign and overshadowed Labour's manifesto launch on the same day. At first, it sent some party strategists into a panic, but subsequent opinion polls showed most voters sympathised with Mr Prescott.

At the time, the Deputy Prime Minister accused television crews of colluding with the demonstrators in Rhyl. He told friends that television crews had been tipped off to record his arrival in the North Wales resort in anticipation of obtaining some dramatic footage. The claim was denied by television companies.

Mr Prescott also complained that police had altered the planned route of his walkabout to bring him within two feet of hostile protesters.

After yesterday's announcement, Mr Prescott said: "The authorities have now made their decision and I have no further comment to make."

Gwynn Jones, the solicitor acting for Mr Evans, said: "Craig is relieved that the whole nightmare has now been brought to an end."

He added: "He has been heartened by the vast amount of support that he has received during the course of the past few months and would wish to thank sincerely all parties for their offers of help in defending possible proceedings.

"He does not wish to pursue matters further and bears no ill will towards the other party concerned. He has always regarded the matter as 'sorted' on the night in question with the only people having an interest in the matter being the press."

After the incident on 16 May, Mr Prescott, an amateur boxer in his youth, described the fracas as "frightening and regrettable". But he later joked about it, saying: "I wish I had ducked a bit quicker at Rhyl. Mind you, I think the other guy thinks that as well."

Mr Evans, 29, issued a statement at the time saying he was protesting about the poor treatment of the farming industry during the foot-and-mouth crisis. He later sold his story to a Sunday newspaper.

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