Why Coleman’s Getting Off Scot-Free

I’ve just been notified of the fact that Brian Coleman has been charged with common assault.

This is currently breaking news on the BBC and the Evening Standard.

I think it’s important to focus on what actually happened. Firstly, the facts of what was alleged to happen were described in some detail by the Evening Standard as follows:

–          Helen Michael saw Mr Coleman pull up in a loading bay, in breach of parking rules

–          Coleman has a history of, and is deeply unpopular for the introduction of parking rules and an increase in parking charges of up to 300%+

–          Helen took out her camera and started filming Coleman’s behaviour

–          Coleman told her to stop and then tried to grab her phone

–           Helen had to be assisted by a undercover policeman

–          He then ‘totally lost it and was shouting and screaming’.

–          Coleman jumped into his car and then drove off.

–          Helen Michael jumped into the car with him

–          Coleman knew there was a woman in a car with him, and drove off in the car with open doors and crashed into a truck

–          Helen Michael jumped out of the car

–          It appears that there was some damage to Helen Michael’s wrist as a result of this entire saga – she ended up having to go to the hospital and there were reports of a torn tendon at the base of her thumb. (this was not reported by the Evening Standard but by several local bloggers via Twitter)

It is also important to note that Helen Michael led a campaign against Coleman at the GLA (‘Anyone But Coleman’ – ABC) to ensure that Finchley traders and campaigners did not vote for Coleman as a consequence of the impact his parking policies were having on the local area. So there is, as mentioned, a long standing history of bullying by Coleman of Ms. Michael as a result of this campaign (he had once previously shouted/screamed at her in a shop to take down posters campaigning against him).

There are three points to raise here.

The first is that Mr. Coleman is currently on bail. I hope that, in light of the history between Ms. Michael and Mr. Coleman that there are some restrictions on where, in Finchley, Mr. Coleman can go – and particularly restrictions on interactions between himself and Ms. Michael. This may have repercussions on whether Coleman can continue to act in a public capacity as a councillor for Barnet Council – particularly where Helen Michael chooses to be in the public gallery.

The second point is that a charge for common assault is very minor indeed. The assault resulted in actual bodily harm which Coleman should arguably also have been charged for (defined in various cases as ‘harm calculated to interfere with the comfort of the victim’ and harm which is ‘not insignificant’. The consequence – the tearing of ligaments is arguably enough to justify this more serious charge.

A third point. There have been a number of cases in which people have driven off with people with open doors, driven into other vehicles and so on – and the consequences have been far worse in such instances. Helen Michael was in actual fact, if the above account is correct (and I understand there is video evidence in this situation) incredibly lucky to have got away with the injuries she is alleged to have sustained. Such behaviour, if correctly reported by the Standard, was incredibly dangerous and reckless, not to mention a road offence. A single charge for common assault in light of all of these factors is in fact woefully short of what one might expect against an individual who had been alleged to behave in such a way. Coleman is alleged to have committed, not one offence, of common assault, but a series of offences – most of which were much more serious than common assault. These more serious offences should also be investigated.

From what I understand – Coleman will not be suspended from the Conservative Party until a trial has commenced. This is an absolute shambles – Cllr Cornelius as Leader of Barnet Council should recognise that a suspension at the very least is necessary in these circumstances whilst an investigation is pending.

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