A TANNING salon owner who was repeatedly harassed by an “anti-social pest” has spoken of her “massive relief” that he has been jailed for terrorising her and others in New Milton.
David Channell had been previously branded a “menace to the community” for his behaviour which included threatening Annette Hunter who runs New Miltan in Station Road.
Speaking after Channell (52) was jailed this week for a total of 16 months and banned from the high street, Ms Hunter said: “It’s a massive relief for me and for everybody in New Milton. I did this for the town as much as myself.
“A lot of people apart from me were having their lives made a misery by his anti-social behaviour.
“I am very pleased with the sentence and the exclusion zone; I finally feel justice has been done not just for me but for the whole town.
“People will feel free to shop, enjoy a coffee and do whatever they want without being scared they are going to bump into him.
“So many people have told me how much better New Milton has been without him in it. I am hoping that while he is in prison, he has time to reflect on how he has been behaving and upsetting people and takes the opportunity to change.”
For more than a year David Channell turned up, sometimes several times a day, at Ms Hunter’s business shouting and swearing at her – and on one occasion threw a pair of scissors at her.
He was also threatening and abusive to other local residents including a pensioner on a mobility scooter and a 78-year-old woman who fled in fear when confronted by him outside Morrisons supermarket in the summer.
In October Channel pleaded guilty at Poole Magistrates’ Court to six counts of abusive and threatening behaviour. He had previously been found guilty in his absence of two similar charges by Southampton magistrates.
Although Poole magistrates heard that Ms Hunter had been left “terrified” and “constantly looking over her shoulder” by his behaviour, they told Channell they were “giving him one last chance”.
Instead of jailing him they gave him community and restraining orders preventing him going to Ms Hunter’s premises and having any contact with her. But within three days he was back at her salon harassing her – something she caught on CCTV.
At Southampton Crown Court on Monday Channell was jailed for 12 months for harassing Ms Hunter.
He was also given an additional four months for breaching the restraining order imposed in October.
At earlier court hearings David Channell had denied harassing Ms Hunter saying that he was merely passing her salon on his way to the town centre. He also claimed that his anti-social behaviour was caused by alcoholism and being homeless – although in fact he was given a council flat in New Milton in May.
Sentencing Channell for the offences against Ms Hunter, Judge Gary Burrell QC told him: “This was a flagrant breach of a court order.
“You seem to be an anti-social pest when you have had a drink.”
A restraining order covering the whole of Station Road was also imposed.
Speaking exclusively to the A&T, Ms Hunter spoke of the toll the whole saga has taken on her.
“It has been quite traumatic having to go through this”, she said. I think Channell thought he could play the system and I would eventually give up.
“But I persevered, although at times it was very hard to keep going, especially when he kept being given suspended sentences and then would be right back outside the shop.”
“It was affecting my health and my business as a lot of my customers were scared of him.
“I’m glad the judge at the crown court realised the seriousness of what Channell had been doing in New Milton and gave him the sentence he did.”
The A&T has previously reported how traders in the town wanted Channell banned from the area after he repeatedly harassed them and their customers.
More than 30 of them signed a petition calling on the police and council to act against him.
The mayor of New Milton, Cllr Alvin Reid, said the town council was now working in conjunction with the NFDC and the police to see if a Public Spaces Protection Order could be brought in for the town.
Paying tribute to Ms Hunter’s “bravery” he said: “If an order had been in place she would not have had to suffer for so long.
“She has been so badly affected by this, as has her business. Annette’s bravery has been remarkable.
“She persevered and persevered to make sure justice was served.”
Cllr Reid added: “New Milton is a town of 26,000 good people and Channell was just one of a very small number of people who create problems.
“Unfortunately, his anti-social behaviour was having an effect on the whole town and I am glad he has been jailed.
“We will now be pursuing the protection order as a way of ensuring the whole town, not just the High Street, is protected from people like him who I am glad to say are very much a tiny minority.”