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South Wootton man describes family’s ‘two and a half years of hell’ while waiting for trial

Derek Harris (71) Has been found not guilty of offences after two and a half years of hell. Pictured Derek Harris at his Home.
Derek Harris (71) Has been found not guilty of offences after two and a half years of hell. Pictured Derek Harris at his Home.

A South Wootton man has said he and his family have been living through hell for more than two years while waiting for a trial against him and his son.

Derek Harris, 71, and his son James Harris, 40, of London, have been found not guilty of offences dating back to 2015, following a five-day trial held at Norwich Crown Court last month.

Mr Harris had been charged with assault by beating and his son was accused of inflicting actual bodily harm, but he said both were acquitted of the charges by a jury after 10 minutes of deliberation.

He said the charges related to an altercation involving two men, who were known to him, in South Wootton in August 2015.

Mr Harris said: “It was a Saturday night, and my son, who is a police officer in London, had come to visit us with my newborn grandson who was four weeks old at the time.”

He said he had decided to go to Gaywood to place a bet that evening, but the journey was interrupted when he saw the two men in a taxi who allegedly verbally abused him.

“As I said in court, I have then seen red and turned my car around,” he added.

It was at this point that the three got out of their respective vehicles prior to the altercation.

“I had just been fitted with a pacemaker and the scar hadn’t even finished healing.

“I’d not long come out of hospital but I just thought ‘I’m an old man, I don’t need this’.”

Mr Harris said before getting out of his car, he had put an exercise spring in his pocket in case he needed to protect himself, but this was later described as an “iron bar”.

He was charged with having an offensive weapon in a public place, although this charge was later dropped.

“I never had an iron bar, it was an exercise spring, and the court accepted that,” he said.

He claims that the spring fell out of his pocket during the altercation, during which he sustained a cut lip, bruises and broken ribs.

His son James became involved after hearing that his father was in a fight, after which all four were arrested for “causing affray”, Mr Harris said.

While he and James were charged, Mr Harris said there were no charges brought against the other two men involved.

The case was first heard at King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court but it was adjourned for 14 months.

Mr Harris said there were then a number of delays and changes to court dates before the case was heard at Norwich Crown Court last month.

“We finally went back in the last couple of weeks and the trial lasted five days.

“The information that was taken to court and the statements we made were the same statements we made two years ago.

“It took 10 minutes for the jury to find us not guilty, but it’s taken two-and-a-half years to dismiss these allegations.”

Mr Harris claims that there was not enough evidence in the first place to charge him and his son, and has complained to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) about the way the case was handled.

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