A MAN has been cleared of two counts of assaulting a police officer, in an incident which saw him pepper sprayed and restrained by the neck.

A third identical charge was dropped by prosecutors during the trial at Chester Magistrates Court on Wednesday, August 8, where the bench found defendant Darren Meakin, of Mayfield Road, Northwich, not guilty and criticised the officers’ ‘inconsistent’ evidence.

Magistrates heard that police had been called to Hamletts Close, in Winsford, at 11.25pm on October 13 last year after a family get-together had escalated into a fight between two teenage girls.

On arrival, officers found a ‘huge group of people drinking and milling around’, although the initial altercation had ended and the atmosphere was not threatening.

Prosecutors had then alleged that an argument between Mr Meakin and his wife broke out, leading police to follow them into a house where the defendant physically blocked officers off in the hallway.

During the incident, police said Mr Meakin – who became emotional when giving his account in court – was aggressive and elbowed one officer in the stomach as she tried to restrain him, before slamming another’s arm in a door and then twice spitting at a third who tried to handcuff him.

Magistrates later heard from Mr and Mrs Meakin, who both said the argument was between another couple and denied all three allegations. The charge involving the arm in the door was dropped after officers’ evidence.

James Bagby, defending, said: “We have four officers here today giving evidence that is inconsistent, and that is because they are trying to justify the reasons for this incident getting out of control due to the way they conducted themselves and the way they behaved.

“When they turned up it was all fine, and not until they entered the hallway was it escalated beyond control.

“The police are trying to paint a picture that this argument took place than that Mr Meakin was being aggressive to his wife. That simply did not happen.”

Mr Meakin told the court he had had his jaw broken in an attack in Northwich town centre six weeks prior to the event, and had steered clear of social gatherings since. The incident on October 13, he said, still gives him ‘nightmares’.

Finding Mr Meakin not guilty of both charges, the chairman of the bench said: “We do not attach weight to the evidence given by the police officers due to the level of inconsistency.”