A regional daily court reporter was literally ‘handbagged’ by a sex offender’s mother after her son walked free from court.
Christopher Barnes had been spared jail at Liverpool Crown Court after he admitted sexually assaulting two women who came to his ‘Reiki Relaxation’ centre.
But, as Liverpool Echo court reporter Neil Docking filmed his attempt to approach Barnes for a comment after the hearing, the convict’s mum lashed out with her handbag, telling the journalist: “I’ll knock it [the phone] out of your hand.”
In delivering his sentence, Judge Brian Cummings QC had said jailing Barnes would have a “harmful effect” on his mum, and instead handed him 20 months in prison, suspended for two years, plus a 60-day rehabilitation activity requirement.
In his defence, the court had heard Barnes was the sole carer for his unnamed mother, who is in her 70s and has “a cocktail of health issues”.
Footage of the attack on Neil was published on the Echo’s website and shows an unidentified female supporter rushed over and tried to push his phone, then attempted to block its camera with a bag.
When Barnes was asked whether by Neil whether he should say sorry to those he groped last year, his mum, in her 70s, shouted “go ask them” and “go find them”.
She then hit him with her handbag, as Neil asked Barnes whether he should apologise for bringing his profession into disrepute.
The mum shouted “get out”, threatened “I’ll knock it out of your hand” and swung the bag again, before repeating her threat and lashing out once more.
One of Barnes’s victims had told the court the attack left her feeling disgusted and vulnerable, before adding that the fact he only pleaded guilty two weeks before a trial caused her more stress, while the other said she felt betrayed by someone she had put trust in.
A photographer and videographer from the Echo had been en route to the court when Barnes left the building, leading to Neil taking the decision to attempt to get an interview and film his exit himself.
He has reported the incident to police, but told HTFP he would not be taking it any further.
Said Neil: “It didn’t hurt in this instance fortunately. She’s a lady in her seventies and I don’t think there was anything too heavy in her handbag.
“I was determined to question him on what he’d done and I’m aware there is a risk of attempting to interview outside court. Ideally it would always be done with the support of colleagues.”
He added: “I understand people support their family in court, but when they’ve been convicted of sexually assaulting two women I don’t know why you’d take out your anger on a member of the press.”