An Isle of Wight Councillor feared he was going to be hit with a wooden pole by a man who had been abusive to him for a year, the Isle of Wight Magistrates Court has heard.
Simon Paul Wheeler, of Albany Road, was found guilty on Friday (23rd July) of using threatening, abusive and insulting words with intent to cause fear of unlawful violence towards Councillor Karl Love. Wheeler pleaded not guilty last month but after a trial, magistrates said he “provided a catalogue of lies and deceit” and his evidence was “less credible” than Cllr Love’s.
The court heard that on 20th April this year, Wheeler stepped into the path of the councillor, who was driving his Tuk Tuk through East Cowes. Cllr Love, who represents the town, swerved to avoid the defendant who was holding a large wooden tamper he was using for a gardening job at a nearby house.
A witness statement, from someone Wheeler had been talking to before the incident, said the 55-year-old had seen Cllr Love coming and said: “Here comes Mr C**t” and to “Watch this, I’m going to have some fun”. The witness turned their back, as they “knew something bad was going to happen” but heard the pair arguing, with Wheeler repeatedly telling Cllr Love “you know who I am now, are you going to tell me to f**k off back to London like before”.
In interview, Wheeler said Cllr Love had hit the tamper with his Tuk Tuk which hit him on his left bicep and caused bruising as well as breaking his phone — all of which Wheeler later admitted in court was untrue. Wheeler was shown CCTV footage of the incident and was told by an officer it was inconsistent with the story he provided.
Wheeler, who has previously made claims to Island Echo that he works as a Royal Protection Officer, said his memory was not as good as it used to be and denied stepping out deliberately in front of the councillor.
Cllr Love told the court the second he recognised who had stepped out he was filled with horror because he had “a great wooden pole in his hand”. They had had previous aggressive and abusive interactions. He said:
“This was an escalation of previous behaviours of aggression, and I thought this has to stop because it will just continue.
“I can put up with a bit of shouting, it is what comes with being a councillor, but having had it for a year, I decided that was enough.
“I felt I was going to be hit with that post. It is not natural for someone to step out into the middle of the road, face you and make you stop.”
Cllr Love said Wheeler was shouting after the incident, trying to deliberately discredit him, as Wheeler said he would be phoning the press, telling them he had been run over.
Wheeler told the court Cllr Love was not his favourite person and he wanted to irritate and annoy him but had no intention to cause him fear. Wheeler also said it was a silly thing to do, which he now regretted.
For Wheeler, Keith Verrinder said the actions were to cause Cllr Love harassment, alarm and distress, not done with the intention to put him in fear of violence. He said:
“In those circumstances I say he should be acquitted and the charge he is facing is the wrong one.”
Mr Verrinder said Wheeler was carrying the tamper while going about his lawful business as a gardening tool, with no intention to use it as a weapon.
Magistrate Peter Redding said while Wheeler did not use the tamper, purely having it and his mannerisms led the bench to believe it was intimidating.
Simon Wheeler will be sentenced on 16th August after magistrates ordered a pre-sentence report on his background. A restraining order is being sought by Cllr Love against Wheeler as part of the sentence.