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A farmer who used his own forklift truck to move a car that was parked on his land has been cleared by a jury.
In June last year, 57-year-old farmer Robert Hooper took matters into his own hands after he saw a Vauxhall Corsa blocking access to his land at his farm in Newbiggin-in-Teesdale, County Durham.
Hooper said he politely asked the driver and passenger to leave, as they were blocking access to the farm on a busy working day. The passenger, 21-year-old Charlie Burns, reportedly punched Hooper in response.
Using a telehandler with forks, Hooper decided to lift the car, flip it over and push it to the road outside. Burns, who was visiting the area and had drunk at least seven bottles of lager, was knocked to the ground in the process.
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Hooper had no previous convictions, and says the passenger of the car punched him twice as he was driving the forklift, splitting his lip. 'If you don’t move it, I will,' Hooper told the driver, Elliott Johnson.
'I thought, ‘We have a bit of a problem here, there’s two of them, half my age.’ I didn’t know what they had in terms of weapons, or what they were capable of doing. I thought if the car was off the property, that would be them off the property, out of the way,' Hooper said, per The Guardian.
The farmer said there had been an 'influx' of youths in the area that summer, resulting in antisocial behaviour. 'I felt threatened, and an Englishman’s home is his castle, and my castle starts at that front gate,' he said.
Burns had reportedly been with friends at Low Force Waterfall, and was going to walk the 52 miles back to South Tyneside, but saw his friend Johnson in the farmer's lane after the car apparently suffered a double puncture.
Hooper was ultimately acquitted. After the four-day trial, his partner Kate Henderson said, 'The overwhelming support of the local community and people from afar have kept him going these last eight months of hell.'
A number of farmers from Teesdale were also present to support Hooper, and welcomed the verdict. Fellow farmer William Wearmouth said, 'He is absolutely first class. He is a hard-working man. He will help anyone with anything. It’s great to see that the jury has realised this.' Another, John Dickinson, said, 'It’s a really good result for the local area. Robert is a very decent, upstanding man who shouldn’t have to have gone through all this.'
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