Four people were assaulted by a man wielding a police-style baton after a dispute with a shopper who wasn’t wearing a face covering in a newsagent.
Police arrested Adam Williams, 40, when they were called to the disorder at Best One in Longleaze, Royal Wootton Bassett, on 13 November last year.
At Swindon Magistrates’ Court this morning, he pleaded guilty to two counts of assault by beating, two counts of common assault, possession of an offensive weapon, criminal damage and possession of cannabis.
Prosecutor Mr Keith Ballinger told magistrates Williams had gone to the small shop shortly before midday. When inside the store, he spotted a man – Kian Jones – not wearing a mask. He confronted him about this and an argument ensued.
The defendant, of Shakespeare Road, produced an extendable baton, and holding it, told Mr Jones “I have family members who have died of Covid”.
Williams is said to have followed Mr Jones outside the store, still brandishing the weapon. Mr Jones’ friend, Daniel Stone, who was in a car parked outside, has then gotten out of the vehicle. The defendant’s response to this was “get back in your vehicle or I’ll put you down too”. Both feared for their safety.
Williams then returned to the store, where he told shopkeeper Mrs Ragunathan that she should be enforcing face covering laws. In reply, she told him she couldn’t enforce it.
In retaliation, he punched a perspex screen on the counter which fell and hit his victim. In his rage, headphones worth £120 were damaged. He left the store, leaving Mrs Ragunathan in tears and shaking with fear.
Mr Jones, with Mr Stone, had returned home and told his mum, Amanda Jones, about the incident. Together, the trio headed back to Best One. En-route, near the store, Williams is spotted entering an alleyway.
Mr Jones and Ms Jones shouted to Wiliams and challenged him about what had happened and why he was carrying a baton. To which he replied, “it’s to protect me from people like you”.
An argument and scuffle followed, which resulted in Williams attempting to hit Mr Jones with the weapon. The strike was blocked by the victim’s arm, causing no injuries.
He then raised the weapon towards Ms Jones, who feared he would hit her. Her son, Mr Jones, jumped between the pair but wasn’t struck by the baton.
Williams returns home following the encounter, before returning to the shop a short time later. He finds the police in attendance. He told officers at the scene he was returning to apologise for his actions.
He was arrested and taken to Gablecross custody. On searching his home address, officers located an extendable baton and approximately 12 grams of cannabis.
Williams claimed he was acting in self-defence after being confronted. He accepted he owned the baton, stating that he carries it for his own protection.
The court heard that he has two previous convictions for offences of battery.
Defending him, Mr Glendenning said his client had been unemployed for 20 years and was currently under referral to a mental health team and is being assessed for autism and ADHD. He added that Williams has suffered from depression for a number of years.
“It stemmed from not wearing a mask in a shop. His intentions were coming from the right place, but he’s then used the baton”, he said.
He added that his client had been mugged at knifepoint more than once in the past. The defendant had decided to purchase a baton, which he carried when he went to the shops.
The magistrate ordered a pre-sentence report to be compiled and the case was adjourned until 17 May.
The case was retained by the magistrate’ court despite the most serious offence being the possession of an offensive weapon. The bench reserved the right for the case to be sent to the crown at a later date if it is deemed necessary.
SENTENCING UPDATE – 17 MAY: Williams, of Cricklade Road, Swindon, was sentenced to an eight-week prison sentence suspended for 18 months.
He was also told to complete an eight-week GPS monitored 7pm-7am curfew. Magistrates ordered him to complete 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days and fined £120.