A HILL farmer from Rossendale accused of driving his tractor at a police officer neighbour and hitting him in the leg as part of a lengthy dispute has seen all charges against him dropped.
Frank Ainsworth, 64, was arrested and became embroiled in a six-month legal battle after Colin MacDiarmid accused him of driving his tractor straight at him, crushing a wheelbarrow and gashing his leg.
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Burnley magistrates court heard there had been a series of stand-offs between the pair over access rights at remote Turn Hill Farm, in the Rossendale countryside.
But Mr MacDiarmid failed to attend the trial hearing after telling the police witness liaison service that he was attending an ongoing NATO conference in South Wales.
Sarah Johnson, representing the Crown Prosecution Service, tried to get the case adjourned, claiming it was a 'serious case' and the alleged victim should not be prejudiced because his official duties clashed with proceedings.
Defence solicitor Nick Dearing said there were indications that Mr MacDiarmid's conference attendance had been known to the police witness service since early July and prosecutors had only notified him of the potential difficulties the evening before it was due to begin.
The magistrates ordered that the case should continue and Ms Johnson asked for the allegations to be dismissed. Mr Dearing also successfully applied for the defendant's costs – he had privately funded his legal fees – to be reimbursed from court funds.
His client, Mr Ainsworth, of Turn Hill Farm, had denied causing criminal damage to the wheelbarrow and assaulting Mr MacDiarmid.
Mr Dearing said Mr Ainsworth's case was that he had not deliberately driven at the off-duty officer, and the confrontation between the pair had occurred on a narrow and dark country lane. The injury was also described as 'nothing worse than you would see at rugby training'.
He also told the court that a complaint had been filed by Mr Ainsworth with the Independent Police Complaints Commission over Mr McDiarmid's conduct, alleging he had misused his position as a police officer to his advantage in their dispute.
The farmer said he had offered to undertake mediation but the police officer had refused.