Man vandalising garage died during ‘citizens arrest’ as mechanic jailed

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A car mechanic has been jailed for 38 months after a "citizen's arrest” went horribly wrong and resulted in a man losing his life.

Benjamin Hunt and co-worker Jonathan Hassall chased Christopher Walters after he had damaged a car that belonged to Mr Hassall’s son.

They caught up with Walters and Hunt, 32, held Mr Walters by the neck, on the ground, for several minutes, using his body weight to pin him down even after the 25-year-old lost consciousness.

Police arrived at the scene and found Mr Walters to be "limp and lifeless", and the 25-year-old was pronounced dead later that afternoon.

Hunt appeared at Stafford Crown Court for sentencing today, April 16, after admitting to manslaughter.

The court heard that Mr Hassall, who owned the Stoke garage where Hunt had worked, took his own life just days before he was due to go on trial for manslaughter.

On May 15, 2019, reports StokeOnTrentLive, the two men were at work when Mr Walters ran up and used a sledgehammer to smash the windows of an Audi belonging to Mr Hassall's son. It’s unclear why Mr Walters damaged the vehicle as he had no connection with Mr Hassall or the business.

After the pair saw the incident and gave chase, Prosecutor Robert Price explained: "Mr Hunt then held Mr Walters around the neck. Mr Hassall held him to the lower body. Mr Walters, in the initial stage, was resisting and shouting unusual comments.

When police arrived 19 minutes later, Hunt was still on top of the unconscious Mr Walters.

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A postmortem found signs of oxygen deprivation in Mr Walters' brain, and significant bruising to his neck. The cause of death was given as compression of the neck.

Barry White, mitigating, said Hunt had told him that he would "never do it again", and that he had learnt a "very hard lesson".

Mr White said: "He apprehended Mr Walters and he held him until the police arrived. Perhaps, I would submit, those are actions that could have been the actions of any of us had we been involved in a similar situation.

"But he accepts his plea, and he accepts he held on for too long. He acknowledges that once Mr Walters had lost consciousness, he should have let go."

Judge Kristina Montgomery told Hunt that she accepted his claim that his purpose had been to apprehend someone he believed to be an offender.

But she said Mr Walters' death was a consequence of Hunt holding on after it was no longer necessary for him to do so, at which point there was an "appreciable risk of causing harm".

Judge Montgomery added: "It is my view that in the early part of your pursuit and restraint of Christopher Walters, there were actions that were lawful. But it quickly became – when Mr Walters was on the ground – an act of detention. That may have been lawful, in so far as the force you used was proportionate.

"But there came a point where you were no longer acting in such a way that was consistent with necessity, let alone proportionality."

  • Courts

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