Rugby man hit neighbour with pick-axe handle after row over dogs

The case was heard at the Justice Centre in Leamington
The case was heard at the Justice Centre in Leamington

A man who hit his neighbour over the head with a pick-axe handle following a fight between their respective dogs claimed he had been acting in self-defence.

But following his arrest on a warrant issued after he failed to turn up for his trial, Adrian Lawson changed his plea to guilty to an offence of assault.

Lawson, 50, of Helvellyn Way, Rugby, was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for two years and ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work.

He was also ordered to pay £1,000 compensation to his victim at the rate of £50 a month from September.

Prosecutor Nazneen Sultan said that in November 2011 65-year-old Lawson’s neighbour returned to his home at around 10.20am after walking his dog.

When his dog became involved in a fight with two dogs owned by Lawson’s wife, he called his dog away.

He was then about to go into his house with the dog when Lawson came up behind him holding a pick-axe handle and hit him to the head and thigh.

Miss Sultan pointed out that Lawson had entered his plea on the basis that he had taken the pick-axe handle outside to use it to separate the fighting dogs.

And the basis continued: “Out of frustration, due to previous incidents involving the dog, I struck him once to the head and once to the leg only.”

As a result, the neighbour had a cut over his left temple which bled profusely and had to be glued at hospital.

When Lawson was arrested he claimed he had acted in self-defence – and when he first appeared at the crown court in March 2012 he pleaded not guilty and the case was adjourned for trial.

Following a series of delays, the trial was finally listed to take place in April last year. But Lawson failed to turn up and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

That was not executed until February this year when he was jailed for two months for his failure to attend.

And on the day he was finally due to stand trial last month, Lawson had entered his guilty plea and was remanded in custody for a pre-sentence report to be prepared.

Miss Sultan asked for a restraining order to be imposed, but Judge Richard Griffith-Jones said he could see no need for one, pointing out there had been ‘no repetition in the last two-and-a-half years’.

Peter Cooper, defending, said: “He has made it very clear that if your honour felt able to deal with him by means of a suspended sentence, he would comply fully with any additional requirements. He is in a position to perform unpaid work.”

Mr Cooper said Lawson, who was ‘not in a happy place’ at the time the original trial was listed because of depression, had no previous convictions for violence, and there had been no hint of any wish by him to resume hostilities with his neighbour.

Judge Griffith-Jones told Lawson: “I’m going to give you a chance. But it’s really a conditional chance - you have got to comply with this court order, and I’m going to reserve any breaches to myself.

“You could have had no argument if you had been given an immediate custodial sentence.

“The taking of a weapon in the way you did is certainly serious enough to justify an immediate sentence.

“The reason I’m suspending it is first, whatever has happened to you in the past, this is the only time you have been convicted of a violent offence; and second, albeit late in the day, you accepted your responsibility.”