Ex council chief admits election night assault

Brian Spencer
Brian Spencer
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SHAMED ex-council leader Brian Spencer finally admitted an election night assault on a young Labour party candidate - on the day he was due to stand trial.

But the long-time local Lib Dem leader - who had previously protested his innocence - continued to blame the incident on Labour party members’ goading in the highly-charged moments after close colleague and ex-deputy council boss Suzanne Knight lost her seat.

South Sefton Magistrates’ Court heard how Spencer, 65, pushed Mark Johnson with both hands - causing him to twist his ankle and stumble backwards onto his mother, Janet, a ward councillor in Sutton, who fell to the floor.

Alison Clarkson, prosecuting, told how Spencer, who had downed brandy before heading to the count, became so upset during the count that he was advised to leave the count room.

Before he did, however, he became involved in a verbal spat with a Labour councillor, later identified outside court by the victim’s family as Rainhill ward councillor Joe De’Asha.

Spencer then had to walk past Mark Johnson, who was standing for election in the Eccleston ward, and his parents, Anthony and Janet, on his way out into the Town Hall foyer.

But he shoulder barged Bold councillor Anthony Johnson, who was acting as an agent for his son, before walking towards Mark Johnson and pushing him backwards.

Mark Johnson’s mother, Janet Johnson, was knocked off balance as a result of the assault and fell to the floor.

Police quickly escorted Spencer and his associates out of the count room. One of the sergeants present reported smelling alcohol on Spencer’s breath.

Spencer, of Goodlea Place, Sutton Leach, was asked to attend a police station the following day and admitted that he had had “a drink of brandy” before leaving his house that night.

In a victim impact statement, Mark Johnson said: “This incident made me angry. But I’m more scared for my mother. She was left shaken up, struggling for breath and crying.

“Brian Spencer has made me feel different about people. I wouldn’t have expected him to behave the way he did.”

Neal Boland, defending Spencer, told how it had been the most tense election night in his client’s 27-year political career.

Accusing members of the local Labour party of adopting “tactics best described as disgraceful”, he said some inflammatory remarks had been made after Mrs Knight lost her seat.

Mr Boland claimed Anthony Johnson, who denied there had been a deliberate tactic to wind up the ex-Lib Dem chief, had stood across Spencer’s path, smirking, before Mark Johnson stepped forward in a confrontational way.

He conceded, however, that Spencer, who had “lived an otherwise impeccable life”, had initially not gone far enough in his admissions to police.

Magistrates fined Spencer £110 and ordered him to pay £50 compensation to Mark Johnson, £220 towards court costs and a £15 victim surcharge.