Ungentlemanly behaviour `not a crime'

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The Independent Online
The 14-stone solicitor who threw the slightly built wife of a wealthy client out of his office and on to the street should not be branded a criminal simply because he had not behaved like "a gentleman", a judge said yesterday.

"It is not a crime not to behave like one. It is not a crime not to behave sensibly," Judge Roderick Adams told the jury in the case against 52-year-old Allen Chubb. "You are here to decide whether he acted criminally."

Chubb, a lawyer for 27 years and a former special constable, had every right to eject 32-year-old Laura Harold from his law firm after she refused to leave, said the judge.

What the jury had to decide on the charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and false imprisonment was whether he used "reasonable force" to remove her, and whether he later acted lawfully in detaining her for five minutes while waiting for the police.

The four-day Inner London Crown Court trial had heard how Mrs Harold called at the offices of Child and Child to ask for the deeds of her pounds 1m home in nearby Chester Square, Belgravia, central London, because she and her husband wanted to buy a mews cottage.

Chubb, of Cumberland Road, Barnes, south-west London, who is being privately prosecuted by his alleged victim, refused to hand them over until Mrs Harold's property developer husband settled a disputed pounds 3,500 bill.

The mother-of-two claimed that when she declined to leave, Chubb dragged her through the office and threw her out the front door with such force that he toppled over her onto the pavement. When she tried to go back in to retrieve her fur coat, he allegedly rugby-tackled her and pinned her to the ground for five minutes, before releasing her because the police had not arrived. The court had heard how Mrs Harold needed a week in hospital to recover from the incident.

Chubb said he had no doubt he used "reasonable force" and had "behaved properly". He had not thrown Mrs Harold down the steps, but accidentally tripped and fell over her.

Jonathan Goldberg QC, prosecuting, claimed the solicitor had "abused" the ancient legal right that allows individuals to remove trespassers with reasonable force.

Chubb's counsel, John Nutting QC, refuted this. "You may think this case is something of a tragedy for all concerned. What began as a simple dispute over a bill became a contest of wills."

The jury was expected to retire to consider its verdict today.