Judge says 27-year-old who assaulted and falsely branded a man as a 'paedophile' should get on roof of County Down caravan and shout victim's innocence

Judge says 27-year-old who assaulted and falsely branded a man as a 'paedophile' should get on roof of County Down caravan and shout victim's innocence

A MAN convicted of assaulting and threatening to 'slit' the throat of a man falsely branded a 'paedophile' at a County Down caravan site has been told by a judge he should climb on top of a caravan and shout the victim's innocence.

District Judge Mark Hamill was speaking at Newtownards Magistrates' Court where Bradley Cooke (27), of Brookmount Street in Belfast's Shankill area, was convicted of assault; making a threat to kill and making a threat to damage the man's caravan.

The court heard there were incidents around 9pm on July 30 last year at the caravan park.

A man told the court he and his wife were walking at the park when Cooke, whom he knew to speak to at the site as the defendant also had a caravan there, alleged to him he was not going by his real name.

The man said Cooke then added another forename in front of his name and branded him a "convicted paedophile".

The victim told the court: "I told him I wasn't this person and that I had never ever been charged or convicted or accused of any sexual offence whatsoever".

The man said Cooke "kept calling me a liar".

The man said his wife looked "distressed" and said a person had called her a "paedo lover".

He said a female was going round the caravan park knocking on doors saying "Look there's the paedophile there".

The man told the court the site owner had been contacted claiming he was a "paedophile" to "get me threw (sic) off" the site.

The man said it had been alleged a "friend" of the woman knocking doors at the site "worked in a jail and took a picture of me" which he said was another false allegation.

The man said whilst he was protesting his innocence with the woman around 30 people gathered and he felt a strike to the back of his head and when he turned round the only person directly behind him was Cooke.

He said the defendant was dragged away but freed himself and returned and kicked him in the stomach and also said he would "slit my throat".

The man said he also heard a comment "just burn it out," relating to his caravan.

The man told the court because of the false allegations: "I can never go down to my caravan again. I could just be attacked by some randomer because of him (Cooke)".

A prosecutor told the court he could confirm the victim "has no criminal record whatsoever".

Cooke told the court he admitted he had called the man a "paedophile" after hearing what the other woman was saying but denied he had assaulted him or made any threats.

The defendant told the court he : "I would just like to apologise" and said he had been drinking on the day in question and had "wrongly" called the man a "paedophile".

He added: "I'm totally sorry I did that".

Judge Hamill said there had been "sheer malice" and the "falsehood" meant the man had his "life turned upside down" and "ruined".

The judge said the "mass hysteria about a 'paedophile'" was one of the "most appalling allegations to be made about somebody" and as it was "patently untrue" it had to be reputed.

The judge said it reminded him of a case when a "mob stormed a house because they thought it belonged to a 'paedophile' but it turned out it belonged to a paediatrician".

He added: "This is the appalling mob mentality and it has to be shouted from the rooftops this is a false allegation".

The judge continued: "This is a particularly important case from a reputational point of view. It all stems from the occupants of this particular caravan site getting it into their heads that one of the caravan owners was a 'paedophile'."

He added: "One woman took it upon her self to whip up this hysteria, knocking on caravan doors to inform everybody that there was a 'convicted paedophile' in their midst. There is a reference to the victim being 'recognised as a prisoner in Maghaberry, a convicted paedophile'.

Judge Hamill said it was "interesting to note" the woman was not at court to give evidence.

He added: "This assault happened in broad daylight in front of a large group of people. The only snag about this allegation of 'paedophilia' is it is not true."

The judge said the man was never in Maghaberry and "has no criminal convictions" and added: "It is simply not true and now it has to be shouted from the rooftops but this mob hysteria takes hold on this caravan site".

He said Cooke "at least had the gumption" to stand up in the witness box and apologise to the man for "this appalling slur" but he convicted the defendant of the assault and threats.

The judge said the "irony" was that the victim could not go back to the caravan park "because this mob were misinformed and leapt to the conclusion 'well it must be right'" but Cooke and the "appalling woman" still had caravans there, adding: "This completely innocent man can't go back to his caravan. It is an outrage".

Judge Hamill told Cooke: "You better go to this caravan site and get on top of your caravan and shout it from the rooftop, literally, 'I apologise to...he was misrepresented as a 'paedophile'."

The judge told the defendant: "There is nothing worse you could say about a person. You get on top of your caravan and shout it from the rooftops so all the idiots on that caravan site can hear you".

The case was adjourned to early August for a pre-sentence report.

The judge said he also wants the defendant to pay £1,000 compensation to the victim of this "horrid slur".

Such compensation, along with his apology "might save him from immediate custody," said Judge Hamill.