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Van driver stands trial over furious bust-up with cyclists

Van driver stands trial over furious bust-up with cyclists

Friday 20 August 2021

Van driver stands trial over furious bust-up with cyclists


The trial of a 70-year-old van driver, who struck a female cyclist in the face and allegedly caused more than £1,000 of damage to her partner’s bike in a row about his driving, opened yesterday.

The Magistrate’s Court heard that Fred Brizzell, who denies charges of assault and malicious damage, told Police his blood was left “boiling” by the fracas in January and that he would have "wrung [the woman's] neck" if he’d got hold of her.

But he nonetheless maintained in Court that he only acted in self-defence, and that the female cyclist was at all times the aggressor, with his comments to the police just being statements he had made, rather than anything he would have done.

The alleged victim told the Magistrate’s Court that the dispute broke out as she was cycling with her partner towards La Rocque slipway from Gorey.

She said that though she saw Mr Brizzell's van waiting to turn into the slipway on the opposite side of the road, there was "nowhere" for him to go as it was blocked by a car already in the slipway, and so assumed he would stop.

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Pictured: The case was heard in the Magistrate's Court.

However, she said his van kept driving over her side of the road, forcing her partner to cycle behind it and her to "squeeze" in front of it - something Mr Brizzell later refuted, saying she had gone round the back.

She claimed she had then cycled up and told Mr Brizzell he should have stopped his van and that it was her right of way, before hitting a panel on his van out of anger.

She said that they had then carried on cycling up La Grande Route De La Côte, but, a few minutes later noticed someone was accelerating behind them, and saw that Mr Brizzell had followed them. The cyclist said he then cut in front and blocked them off.

The woman claimed that Mr Brizzell got out of the van, despite her partner trying to stop him from leaving the vehicle.

Appearing for the prosecution, Legal Adviser Paul Lee highlighted mobile phone footage which he said showed that the woman's partner had dropped his bike on the floor due to Mr Brizzell coming towards him.

The woman said Mr Brizzell approached her after getting out of his van and punched her in the face, leaving her "lip bleeding and swollen" - she said that whilst she thought he used a closed fist, she could not be 100% sure.

After this, as more cars stopped and people came to calm the situation, she said he went back to his van. However, on his way there, she said he stamped on her partner's bike before driving off.

A bike shop later estimated the damage to the bike would need £1,182.99 of repair work.

Mr Brizzell disputed this version of events as he took the stand, saying he had driven into the slipway after following the car in front of him, having checked there were no vehicles coming either end, but that the car in front had stopped when he was halfway across the slipway.

He said the car in front eventually began to move forwards, but he then heard a loud bang which had frightened both him and his partner.

He said he looked out the window to see the cyclists swearing at them.

After his partner had exited the van in shock, Mr Brizzell said he had driven after the cyclists to get their details, as well as check there was no damage to his van.

He denied forcing them to emergency stop by blocking them off, saying he beeped and called out to them.

He said upon getting out of the van, the woman came at him from behind, and pushed his chest against the vehicle twice. He claimed that he slapped her in self-defence on her third attempt.

On whether the strike had been closed or open fisted, he said it had been an open handed slap, though may have started as a closed fist before the strike.

As he returned to his van, he claimed he had tripped over the woman's partner's bike, and then lightly kicked it, in what he described as "just a tap". He said that, if there was any damage, it was not caused by him.

In his closing speech, Mr Lee urged the court to consider Mr Brizzell's comments about wringing the woman's neck during a Police interview in February.

He also said it was "impossible to reconcile the defendant's version of stumbling back and kicking out at a tyre" with the accounts of three witnesses called during the trial, all of whom said they saw him stamp on it.

On Mr Brizzell's assertion the woman assaulted him first, Mr Lee said that "nobody described [the woman] coming at this in the way he describes" and "nobody sees that fact of him hitting her in the way he does."

Defending Mr Brizzell in her concluding remarks, Advocate Francesca Pinel said that the court "cannot be sure" Brizzell had assaulted the woman, arguing that he had used "reasonable force" to defend himself.

She said that though there were other witnesses later on during the incident, at the start, when Mr Brizzell alleges that he was pushed, only Mr Brizzell, the woman and her partner were there.

She suggested "it wouldn't look good for [the woman] to admit to pushing a 70-year-old man."

On the malicious damage charge, she also said that the front wheel of the bicycle had been left undamaged, which was around the area that witnesses had said he had stamped on it - she also said the "bike falling does not amount to the malicious damage when the intention was to get out of his van, not to damage the bike."

Advocate Pinel lastly noted how, when Mr Brizzell saw nearby police following the row, he "approached the police officer to let him know an incident had occurred" and that, since then, his "adamant" accounts he had not committed the offences had always remained the same.

Relief Magistrate Sarah Fitz, presiding, is expected to deliver her verdict this morning.

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