A traveller has today been found guilty of pushing a partially-sighted OAP to the ground as she tried to stop him moving caravans on to a beauty spot.
Sarah Freeman, 73, had her false teeth knocked out as she acted as a ‘human shield’ to stop 29-year-old Sam Loveridge entering the site in Colchester, Essex.
She was left badly bruised after Loveridge and two other men tried to prise her fingers from a gate as they hurled verbal abuse at her.
Pensioner Sarah Freeman, left, tried to block some travellers from opening a gate and driving several caravans into a beauty spot during an incident on June 8, last year, right
A video shot at the time shows Ms Freeman blocking the path of the travellers at the entrance to the Hilly Fields nature reserve in Colchester, Essex
Video of the incident made national headlines in June last year.
Today Colchester magistrates were shown pictures of Mrs Freeman clinging to a wide, metal red gate which opens on to sprawling green land.
Prosecutor Mo Miah said: ‘I think, essentially, the pictures speak for themselves in this case, but it’s quite useful for you to see what occurred.
‘She noticed some caravans when she was out walking he dog- she was concerned that the caravans were going to enter the land and so she formed a human shield of sorts between her and the land.
‘She was met with a torrent of abuse – the word “w****” was used against her, the word “c***” was used against her.’
A statement by Mrs Freeman, who is partially sighted, was read out to the court, describing the injuries she suffered in the incident on June 8, 2017.
Mr Miah read snippets of Mrs Fuller’s statement, including: ‘My adrenaline was shrieking,’ and ‘I am half blind, I have no particular objections to travellers.
‘I am a pensioner, I have a small bruise on my right arm my fingers on my left arm are very black and very poor.’
The court heard how Mrs Freeman was walking her two Jack Russells at the Hilly Fields nature reserve in Colchester, Essex, when she saw a number of travellers approaching the site.
She watched several men attempt to force the gate open and ran towards them, wrapping herself around the gate to prevent their access.
But she faced with a barrage of physical and verbal abuse from the men, who tried to move her from the gate.
Ms Freeman, pictured, received verbal and physical abuse as she tried to stand her ground
Ms Freeman was knocked to the ground by father-of-three Sam Loveridge from Chobham
Father-of-three Loveridge, of Chobham, Surrey, who works as a tree surgeon, denied assault by beating but was today found guilty at Colchester Magistrates Court.
He was fined £650 and ordered to carry out 210 hours of community service.
Sentencing him, chair of the bench Ian Fuller said: ‘This was a poor thing to do – let’s put it that way.
‘Mrs Freeman was doing a public spirited thing, and she was subjected to a verbal torrent of words that were offensive in nature clearly.
‘She was subjected to attempts to unclasp her from the post and to bruising – this was unpleasant, very unpleasant.’
James Crawt from Littlehampton had previously been convicted of assaulting Ms Freeman
Jamie Crawt, 24, from Littlehampton, West Sussex, was previously convicted of assaulting Mrs Freeman in a separate trial.
He was captured on camera prising Mrs Freeman’s fingers away from the post and subsequently issued a community order last year in a separate trial.
Speaking at the time of the incident, Mrs Freeman said: ‘My family were not too happy with my actions – they were cross that I had intervened and put myself in the way.
‘I thought of this while I was watching all these vans pull up and thought ‘not again.’ ‘I wrapped myself around the gate and I wasn’t going to let go if it killed me.
‘I understand travellers are just people.
‘But you don’t expect anyone to manhandle a 73-year-old woman in order to break-in.’
The widow, who used to work for Royal Mail, said she stayed put for half an hour before the police arrived.
‘My adrenaline was shrieking,’ she said.
‘It usually takes me a long time to get up when I’m on the floor, but in this instance, I jumped straight back up and continued to cling onto the gate.
Ms Freeman, pictured, will receive £250 in compensation from Loveridge, who was ordered to carry out 210 hours of work in the community as well as covering £310 in court costs
Loveridge was told by chair of the bench Ian Fuller: ‘It was a poor thing to do. This was a very unpleasant situation to a lady who was trying, she felt, to do the right thing in these circumstances’
‘Other people were watching and encouraging me – but no-one else joined in, I wouldn’t let them.
‘I knew I had to do something to stop them getting on the site so I had to stand my ground. I’d do it again if I had to.’
Former post office worker Mrs Freeman was not in court today.
The Crown offered no evidence today
Loveridge was ordered to carry out 210 hours of work in the community.
He will also have to pay Miss Freeman £250, as well as £310 court costs and an £85 victim surcharge.
Chair of the bench, Ian Fuller, said: ‘It was a poor thing to do.
‘This was a very unpleasant situation to a lady who was trying, she felt, to do the right thing in these circumstances.’