A MAN has been cleared of deliberately running down an undercover detective during a surveillance operation outside a Leeds pub.
A jury today found Martin Middleton not guilty of attempting to inflict grievous bodily harm with intent and arson after a trial at Leeds Crown Court.
Mr Middleton was accused of carrying out the attack on the officer during an incident outside the Omnibus pub, Belle Isle, on February 19 this year.
The trial heard the detective constable was involved in an operation with West Yorkshire Police’s serious organised crime group at the time of the incident.
The prosecution alleged Mr Middleton approached the officer in his Vauxhall Astra on Dolphin Lane around 6.40pm and shouted “hello mister policeman” shortly before reversing into him.
Mr Middleton gave evidence at the trial in which he described unintentionally reversing into the officer.
He said the incident happened days after his brother had been arrested and class A drugs had been seized by police.
The 32-year-old said his brother had then received threats from the owner of the drugs and had warned him to be careful.
Mr Middleton said he had been at the pub with friends as it was the last night before it was due to shut down.
He said he had been concerned when he had noticed a man sat in a car on Dolphin Road looking in his direction when he was outside having a cigarette.
The defendant said he got into his car and drove over to the vehicle to speak to the man, who then drove off.
Mr Middleton said he returned to the pub briefly but became concerned when he left and saw another man stood watching him.
He told the jury that he decided to drive over to the man when he saw him jump into a garden and hide behind a hedge.
Mr Middleton said: “He was just acting shifty and dodgy.”
Mr Middleton’s barrister Mark McKone asked him: “Why didn’t you just leave it at that.”
He replied: “Because I knew that there was something wrong about what he was doing and his interest seemed to be on me.”
Mr Middleton also denied calling the man a policeman.
He then described how he struck the officer as he tried to cut him off as he ran towards an alleyway. The officer escaped serious injury but was badly bruised.
Mr McKone said: “Did you deliberately drive your car at (the officer)?” Mr Middleton replied: “No.”
The barrister continued: “If you had seen him in the road behind your car, what would you have done?”
The defendant replied: “I would have stopped, obviously.”
Mr Mckone said: “Did you want to cause him really serious harm.”
He replied: “No. I could see no reason why I would want to do that. Whether or not he was a police officer makes no difference to me. I would not want to cause him serious harm either way.”
Mr Middleton, of Bankside House, Ousefleet, said he drove off and abandoned the car nearby on Orion Gardens but denied setting the vehicle on fire.
He was arrested in Dover the next day where he had booked on a ferry to France.
Mr Middleton said he would have handed himself in rather than head to France after discovering the person he had knocked down was a police officer.
He said: “I was panicking. I was not thinking straight. Having had the chance to sleep on it I think I would have handed myself in.”
Mr Middleton pleaded guilty to dangerous driving at an earlier hearing.
Judge Sally Cahill, QC, imposed a six month sentence for that offence but Mr Middleton will be released from custody as he has been in prison on remand awaiting trial since February.
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