A SERIAL troublemaker who has “menaced” New Milton shopkeepers faces being banned from the town centre.
David Channell (52) will spend Christmas behind bars and could be sentenced to up to a year in jail when he is dealt with by a crown court judge in the new year.
As reported in the A&T, business owners in New Milton revealed earlier this year they were having to suffer drunken, threatening and abusive behaviour from a group of homeless beggars.
Led by Annette Hunter, the owner of the New Miltan salon in Station Road, the 30 or so traders signed a petition for action to be taken against the group – which included Channell – by New Forest District Council and the police.
Subsequently David Channell was given a council flat in Drake Close, yet over the past few months he has been involved in several incidents with Ms Hunter and other business owners.
They have resulted in Channell being found guilty of at least eight charges of abusive and threatening behaviour; those incidents included him throwing a pair of scissors at Ms Hunter and screaming abuse at her, a colleague and an arresting police officer.
Channell also shouted at a 78-year-old woman outside the Morrisons store in New Milton and was abusive to JPC Technology Centre worker Mark Bridle, its owner Clifford Harris and Raymond Tomkins – a pensioner who was on his mobility scooter outside the shop.
His behaviour got so bad Ms Hunter and other traders called for him to be banned from the town – an increasingly likely prospect after a hearing at Southampton Magistrates’ Court.
Channell, who is currently in custody, appeared there on Wednesday for his latest trial over an allegation he used threatening, abusive or insulating words or behaviour towards Angela Whitcher, a worker in the New Milton Subway outlet.
However, she failed to show up to court – and as a result the prosecution offered no evidence on the charge and Channell was found not guilty.
But he still fell to be sentenced for an offence of breaching a restraining order by harassing Ms Hunter between 14th and 24th of October this year.
He had been convicted of that offence at a previous trial – at which he was also found not guilty of an alternate charge of stalking the salon owner.
Outlining the details of the harassment offence, prosecutor Liam Hunter said it happened days after Channell appeared in court and was given a suspended sentence and the restraining order for some of his public order offences.
As part of his punishment he was banned from having any contact with several people – including Ms Hunter – but he defied that by going to her shop while angrily clutching an A&T article detailing his court appearance.
He also stood outside her shop for more than 40 minutes “staring” at her, Mr Hunter said, and when she went to her car she found him standing near it.
‘He is constantly harassing me’
Mr Hunter said Channell had been a “menace” to her, and his behaviour had caused Ms Hunter’s health to suffer. She described herself as “frightened” of Channell, the court heard, and said she was always “looking over my shoulder”.
In a victim impact statement Ms Hunter added: “I want to move on with my personal and work life but I cannot when he is constantly harassing me.”
Defence solicitor Michael McGoldrick said Channell maintained he was innocent and would launch an appeal at the crown court. Channell deposited the article outside the shop and did not come into contact with Ms Hunter, he added.
Mr McGoldrick argued the offending was not in the most serious bracket and the magistrates could deal with Channell straight away.
‘Serious and persistent’
But the prosecutor said it was a “serious and persistent” breach and a judge should deal with Channell. He also said the prosecution was applying to widen the area covered by the restraining order to ban the defendant from an area including all the shops along Station Road, New Milton.
After deliberating briefly the Bench agreed the offences were so serious Channell should go to the city’s crown court on 6th January for sentence.
They noted the offence of breaching the suspended sentence carried the possibility of a year in jail, whereas their powers limited them to send someone to prison for six months only.
The Bench refused a brief bail application by Mr McGoldrick and remanded David Channell in custody until his crown court appearance.