Nottinghamshire drug vigilante jailed for three-night harassment campaign

Mansfield Magistrates Court
Mansfield Magistrates Court

A would-be vigilante obsessed with cleaning up drug dealers in Blidworth was not guilty of committing hate crimes against a black man, a court has ruled.

Victor James Staples, 57, admitted smashing a window with his walking stick and showering a woman in glass, as well as using threatening and abusive language likely to cause harassment or distress, but denied using racially abusive words.

The court heard that Staples confronted Stefan Martin at his Thorney Abbey Road home on October 7, 8 and 9, and accused him of dealing drugs to local children, including Staples’ own grandson.

On the first night, Mr Martin said: “He said ‘I have got something for you’ and threw a blue shotgun cartridge through the bedroom window.

“He said the next one’s going to be in the back of my head.”

On the next day at 6.30pm Staples turned up and argued with Mr Martin’s partner Kelly Machin while their children were present, before Mr Martin returned home.

Mr Martin said: “We were arguing outside. We were shouting at each other. I tried to tell him I hadn’t sold any drugs.”

The police were called and Staples was arrested. He was bailed on condition he did not return to Thorney Abbey Road.

However, on the next night, Friday October 9, Mr Staples did return and smashed a window with his walking stick, showering Ms Machin in glass and injuring her.

Mr Martin said he had been the victim of racist abuse before but was only bothered by it when it was heard by his children.

The court heard that his home had been broken into and a racist slogan daubed on the walls in February 2015.

Both Mr Martin and Ms Machin alleged that Staples used racially abusive terms on October 8 and 9 which Staples rejected.

He said: “I grew up with black people, I have got black people in the family and plenty of black friends, so why should I do that?”

Ms Machin described Staples as ‘just vile’ and said she was ‘100 per cent sure’ that he had used racist terms.

But during cross-examination, Mary Dixon, defending, revealed that neither Mr Martin, nor Ms Machin, had mentioned any racist abuse in their statements to police.

She said: “I am going to suggest that it isn’t in there because you didn’t hear it.”

The court heard that Staples, currently living at Raymede Drive in Bestwood, had lived in Blidworth for 37 years and was concerned about drug use in the village.

Mrs Dixon said: “This isn’t an issue about colour or race. This is about drug use in the village. Mr Staples is very fixed in his ideas about who has been supplying drugs and there is a drug problem in that village. There is no evidence we can bring forward.”

She said Staples had been in touch with the police about his concerns on several occasions.

Magistrates found Staples not guilty of committing a hate crime because there were inconsistencies between the statements made by Mr Martin and Ms Machin and their testimonies in court.

In mitigation, Mrs Dixon told the court Staples had been diagnosed with a bipolar disorder after he threatened Newark and Sherwood Council staff for failing to tackle drug dealers in the area in 2014.

Mrs Dixon said: “These are very real concerns which have become all embracing to him.”

Staples was sentenced to a total of 20 weeks in custody, which included six weeks for breaching the terms of two community orders made in December 2014 and September 2015, and 14 weeks for common assault.

He was also sentenced to one week for criminal damage and six weeks for a separate charge of driving with excess alcohol, to run concurrently.

He was banned from contacting Mr Martin or visiting his Thorney Abbey Road address for five years. He was also disqualified for 22 months and ordered to pay £100 compensation.