Man jailed for assaulting Bedford ‘supermoon’ photographer

The scales of justice
The scales of justice

An amateur photographer taking pictures of the ‘supermoon’ was knocked unconscious by a neighbour who accused him of spying.

The victim and his 15-year-old daughter went to parkland at the back of Ashmead Road in Bedford to capture the event last November, when the moon appeared 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter than average.

But the rapid speed of the shutters and flashes from his camera disturbed the France family, St Albans Crown Court heard today/Friday.

The man and his daughter were confronted by 6ft plus Darren France, his wife and two others in the street, with someone shouting ‘paedo’ at him.

Prosecutor Richard Sedgewick said: “Mr France accused him of taking pictures of his house. The victim showed him pictures of the moon, but that did not calm Mr France down.

“His wife tried to remove Mr France from the escalating confrontation, but he punched the man hard in the face and ran off with the younger males.”

The victim was knocked out unconscious on the ground. His daughter ran home to fetch her mother. The next thing he remembers was coming round at home and seeing one of his teeth on the floor.

He was taken to hospital, where he was treated for a bruise to the left side of his head, a swollen cheek and a cut. As well as losing one tooth, several others were loosened. He was also given antibiotics for an infection.

France, 46, of Ashmead Road, Brickhill, Bedford was arrested and denied the assault.

He pleaded guilty on the day his trial to causing actual bodily harm at around 8.15pm on November 17 last year.

In a pre-sentence interview with a probation officer, he said he had drunk four cans of lager that night.

The judge was told France had 11 convictions for 23 offences. The last was for assault in 1997.

Defending, Mark Nicholls said France had run his own company for seven years and felt “extremely embarrassed about what he had done.”

He added: “His wife had difficulties in the past with a stalker. She noticed someone seemed to be taking photos of their house.”

He said France was not the person who shouted: “paedo” and said the assault happened on the anniversary of his father’s death.

Recorder Jeffrey Yearwood jailed him for nine months and ordered him to pay £425 prosecution costs.

He said: “He was not a peeping Tom. He was in a public park with a tripod openly taking photographs. He said: ‘I am not taking pictures of your house. I am taking pictures of the moon,’ but that did not satisfy you.

“You went right up to him. You are 6ft 2in, 6ft 3in, your stomach was touching his. You could understand the intimidation he felt. He was accused of taking photographs of your house. He allowed you to examine photos.

“It was a totally unprovoked attack. He had done nothing improper or indecent.

“You punched this man. It was an extremely hard, forceful blow with such force it knocked his tooth out and knocked him unconscious.”

The judge said he was passing an immediate jail sentence because France had only accepted responsibility at the court door.