Officer tells of ‘worst violence in 15-year career’


WARNING: This court report contains some language, given as part of the prosecution evidence, which some readers may find mildly offensive.

A Clitheroe market trader waded in when police tried to arrest her son for criminal damage after he kicked a car wing mirror.

Blackburn magistrates heard that Sarah Jane Atherton (45) led the way as her family went to war with officers at 3-50 am in the centre of Whalley.

The son who started the incident was cautioned for criminal damage, another son had to write a letter of apology to police and her husband received a fixed penalty for being drunk and disorderly.

Atherton ended up in court and pleaded guilty to two charges of assaulting police officers, being drunk and disorderly in King Street and criminal damage to a police uniform. She was fined £220 and ordered to pay £110 in compensation and £105 in costs.

Miss Catherine Allan (prosecuting) said the incident started when, unknown to the defendant, her son kicked a wing mirror, which led to the police being called.

“Officers were in the process of arresting him when Atherton and other members of her family decided to get involved. An officer was placing the son in a vehicle when he was grabbed round the neck by Atherton who was shouting at him to get off her son and calling him a “dick head”.

The officer’s shirt was ripped and he pushed Atherton away, at which point her other son became involved and shouted: “Don’t push my mum you prick.”

Atherton got hold of the officer around the neck again and another officer then took hold of her.

“She kicked that officer several times in the leg and groin area,” said Miss Allan.

“One of the officers produced his Pava spray, but in the course of the struggle got sprayed himself. The officer said that in 15 years of service he had never experienced such physical violence towards him by so many people at the same time.”

Mr Kristian Cavanagh (defending) said his client was before the criminal courts for the very first time following her first ever arrest.

“She is embarrased to be here and ashamed of the actions which led to her arrest,” said Mr Cavanagh.

“When she was confronted by the CCTV footage of the incident her response was that she was very, very sorry.”

He said Atherton had worked as a care worker within the NHS for 20 years and had dealt with many challenging and threatening individuals in a professional manner.

“On this occassion she had too much to drink and didn’t react well,” said Mr Cavanagh.