Mailbox dispute lands shearer in court

Last updated 16:02 11/02/2013

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An Alexandra shearer was found guilty of assaulting his 71-year-old neighbour with intent to injure after a fight broke out over a mailbox.

James Ray Baigent, 32, appeared in the Alexandra District Court this month before Judge Eddie Paul to defend charges of injuring with intent, assault and disorderly behaviour on October 27.

Police prosecutor Ian Collin said that Baigent, who had been drinking, arrived home late from work and became involved in an argument with his partner.

On leaving the house to walk away from the argument, he damaged his and a neighbour's letterbox, Mr Collin said.

A short time later, his neighbour, Earle Bailey, a school bus driver, approached Baigent, who was sitting down against a fence, after his wife Pamela told him that "a chap outside acting strange" had damaged their mailbox.

Mr Bailey put his hand on Baigent's shoulder and asked him if he damaged the letterbox.

Baigent then stood up and "as he came up he must have clouted me", Mr Bailey said.

A fight broke out and the pair ended up in the gutter, with Mr Bailey landing on his back and hitting his head.

Mrs Bailey, who witnessed the incident, said she got on her hands and knees to help Mr Bailey, who was not responding.

Baigent tried to help Mr Bailey up but then kicked him in the head while he was lying on the ground, Mrs Bailey said.

However, Baigent denied punching or kicking his neighbour, saying it was Mr Bailey who assaulted him and that he had only pushed him to stop the punches being inflicted.

"He just falsely excused me about it [damaging the letterbox] and started punching me," Baigent said.

"I didn't mean to hurt him. I feel completely terrible about what happened but I felt cornered," he said.

An ambulance was called and Mr Bailey was taken to Dunstan Hospital where he received stitches for a cut on his face and treatment for other lacerations and bruising.

The judge found the Baileys had instigated the incident and said Mr Bailey was no doubt "wild" when he approached Baigent to ask about the damage.

"He maybe a 71-year-old but he is by no means feeble.

"There was a fight and it appears both sides were willing," he said.

The judge dismissed the charges of disorderly behaviour and assault and reduced an injuring-with-intent charge to one of assault with intent.

Baigent was sentenced to 250 hours' community work and nine months' supervision.

He was also ordered to under go alcohol-abuse counselling as directed.

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- The Southland Times

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