Irate Norwich bus passenger found guilty of assaulting driver

Irate Norwich bus passenger found guilty of assaulting driver

An angry passenger grappled with a bus driver, kicking him in the groin and ripping his shirt, as onlookers watched on in Norwich city centre.

Driver Tom Ballard was forced to pin 51-year-old Noel Tamsett against a wall after coming under attack in Bank Plain, a court heard yesterday.

Tamsett became aggressive after boarding a First bus in Larkman Lane, Norwich, because a previous service had not turned up, the trial at Norwich Magistrates' Court was told.

Tamsett, of Gentry Place, Marl Pit, Norwich, was found guilty of assaulting Mr Ballard and will be sentenced at a later date.

The court heard that Tamsett had got on the First bus at Larkman Lane, Norwich, at about 12.50pm on Saturday, July 31.

Tamsett immediately complained to Mr Ballard that the previous bus had failed to stop and asked him why.

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In reply, the bus driver told him that if he had a complaint, he should go through customer services.

The court heard that Tamsett took offence and swore at Mr Ballard who told him that, if he continued to be aggressive, he would not let him ride the bus.

Tamsett kept quiet until the bus arrived at his stop, Bank Plain in the city centre, when he approached Mr Ballard and grabbed him by the shirt, tearing his breast pocket.

Mr Ballard's mobile phone fell out of his pocket onto the floor and Tamsett picked it up and told Mr Ballard, 'If you want it, come and get it'.

The bus driver then left the bus and grabbed Tamsett by the throat pinning him up against the wall of a building in Bank Plain.

Mr Ballard then rang the police, but Tamsett took a swing at him and kicked him in the groin, before police arrived and he was arrested for common assault.

The court was shown CCTV footage of a crowd of onlookers surrounding the pair as they tussled on the pavement in Bank Plain. The 999 call Mr Ballard made was also played to the court.

Tamsett had denied assaulting Mr Ballard and claimed that the bus driver had in fact assaulted him.

But District Judge Philip Browning said that Tamsett's explanation for what happened was unlikely and found him guilty.

He adjourned the case until December 3 for pre-sentence reports.

As the verdict was announced, Tamsett shouted from the dock that he would appeal and that he had been telling the truth.

Giving evidence, Mr Ballard, 47, who has been a First driver for two years and a London transport inspector before that, said on July 31 he was on the No 19 Costessey to Norwich city centre run.

He said: 'He got on and asked for a return ticket. He then asked why the bus in front had not stopped. I asked him if it was in service and he said it was.

'As I was not the driver of that bus, I could not give him an answer. He swore at me that that was not good enough.

'Then I said that if he had a complaint, to take it up with customer services. He said he did not wish to tell them as he was taking it up with me.

'I then said if he continued with that attitude, he would not be travelling on my bus. He then swore again and said he was not going anywhere.'

Tamsett was then quiet until the bus stopped at Bank Plain.

Mr Ballard added: 'As he approached the exit, he swore at me and said: 'I don't make threats, I make promises', and then he grabbed my shirt. At that point the phone came out of my breast pocket, and he grabbed it off the floor.

'He said that if I wanted it to come and get it. He got off and I followed him. I grabbed him by the throat to restrain him and, on another phone, rang the police for assistance. As I did this, he took a swing at me and kicked me. I then put him to the ground and he gave me back my phone.'

Mr Ballard suffered a cut to his face and scratches to his chest, and his spectacles were smashed.

On the 999 call made by Mr Ballard, he can be heard saying that he had been assaulted and that he was restraining the person. Tamsett can also be heard shouting that Mr Ballard would lose his job and that he was lying.

Giving evidence, Tamsett denied grabbing Mr Ballard or swearing at him and said that his shirt must have been torn as they grappled on the pavement.

He said that he got on the bus with his puppy dog and that Mr Ballard had threatened him with violence.

Tamsett said: 'I will not be bullied. He threatened to stick one on me. I was not going to be threatened, especially in front of people.

'A man in a public service does not bully or threaten his passengers. When I got off the bus all I did was suggest that he drop his threats of violence. I was offering a serious bit of advice and he fell out of his seat to run at me.

'He shoved me out of the bus, and I came out of the bus backwards. He grabbed me by the throat and shoved me really hard against the wall.

'I felt intimidated, harassed and I wondered about his mental ability. I felt my life was under threat. I kicked him in the groin then he took me down. He started to twist the ligature and it felt like I was being hung.'

In cross-examination by prosecutor Philip Alcock, Tamsett was asked if he had a dislike of authority, and he answered: 'No, just people who abuse it.'

For Tamsett, Alice Newton said: 'It was an utterly unreasonable amount of force to use [by Mr Ballard]. My client's very upset at being here and is certain about what happened.'

A First Buses spokesman said: 'We have been working with police and helping them with their enquiries as much as possible. We have provided as much evidence as possible.'