Shropshire Star

Man found to have broken restraining order after trial hears of gerbils, dog and police raid

Magistrates found a man guilty of three breaches of a restraining order - and not guilty of five more - after a trial including evidence involving two gerbils, a yellow labrador, and how an armed police raid lead to a friend having a heart attack.

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Matthew Bennett had pleaded not guilty to eight counts of harassment involving restraining order breaches and he, his wife, his dad and a friend who had employed him spoke up during the second and concluding day of his trial at Telford Magistrates Court.

Bennett's ex and an eye witness had testified during a previous day of the trial which also heard how he had served time in prison for an assault occasioning actual bodily harm on his former partner.

The court on Friday was told that Bennett is banned from going to a street in Pontesbury either on foot or in a vehicle and the court was told that his ex now keeps a diary of sightings of him.

Bennett, of Plealey Lane, Longden, had been released from prison on November 2, 2023 and he was seen a number of times by his ex and a man in the area.

They claimed to have seen 44-year-old Bennett several times either walking a dog or travelling along the road between November 3, 2022 and January 2, 2023. He pleaded not guilty to all eight counts.

Bennett was called into the witness box at Telford Magistrates Court where he told his solicitor Brendan Reedy that he understood the terms of his restraining order and added "there's no way I would break that."

He was allegedly seen in a vehicle on November 3, which he described as is "first day of freedom."

Prosecutor Sarah Hurd questioned whether Bennett's memory was letting him down because he had mixed up the date of his release from prison in an interview with the police.

"How accurate is your memory if you got the date of the first allegation wrong? Your memory is not a good one."

Bennett replied: "I was having all those dates fired at me, I was just guessing at the police station. You've got all of these dates aiming at you, you don't know what's going on."

Bennett claimed to have alibis for the dates and times he was allegedly seen, including when he was at work, or at his parents' house on Christmas Day.

Giving evidence Dr Emma Lawrence, a friend of 15 years who uses Bennett to do odd jobs of gardening, maintained that he had been working for her on one of the dates.

She recalled how she arranged for Bennett to visit on one of the occasions by WhatsApp.

Brian Bennett, the defendant's father, told the court that he remembered dates in November 2022 very well because it was his wedding anniversary on November 3, and he had picked his son up from the probation service in Telford the day before.

Ms Hurd put it to the grandfather of five that his son's restraining order was not "at the forefront of your mind". He replied: "Yes it is. I take responsibility for my son."

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