‘Innocent - now I want an apology’ says Stevenage Neighbourhood Watch chairman
- Credit: Archant
A Neighbourhood Watch chairman who spent a night in the cells but has now been cleared of wrongdoing by magistrates says he is happy to work with the police – but he thinks he deserves an apology for the way he was treated.
First aid trainer Michael Hearn was arrested in September last year for allegedly making threats after one of his five dogs was killed while he was out walking them with his wife Sharon.
But after a two-day hearing Stevenage magistrates dismissed the charge of a Section 5 Public Order offence for causing harassment, alarm or distress.
Mr Hearn, of Little Hyde in Stevenage, said: “Thankfully the magistrates saw that I hadn’t done anything wrong which was such a weight off my shoulders.
“But I feel the police took another view and treated me as if I was guilty from the start, and I think that they owe me an apology.
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“That said I will not let it affect my professional relationship with them and I have no issue working with them to help tackle crime in the area.”
The 45-year-old was offered a police caution for the offence in September which he refused, choosing to fight to prove his innocence.
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As he waited for his trial, he was asked to resign from his Neighbourhood Watch role, but he refused and also fought off a move to to suspend him.
He said this week: “Why should I have resigned? I thought you are innocent until proven guilty in this country but I certainly wasn’t made to feel that way.
“I can’t believe the way I was treated and how it seemed that everyone presumed I was guilty. It was only because I’ll stand up and fight for myself that I proved my innocence.
“A more timid person might have taken the caution and they’d have been criminalised. What kind of justice would that have been?”
Mr Hearn has made several complaints about his treatment to the police’s independent ombudsman, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is are investigating.
A police spokesman said: “We responded to this disturbing matter appropriately and with full accordance to national legal guidance.
“We accept the findings of the court and hope that Mr Hearn can now move forward in a positive way.
“Mr Hearn has exercised his right to complain about the police response to this incident to the IPCC and the investigation needs to be concluded before a wider comment can be made by the force.”