Restraining order for venue boss who intimidated council leader's daughter

Ian Grutchfield leaving Suffolk Magistrates' Court

Ian Grutchfield leaving Suffolk Magistrates' Court - Credit: Archant

An arts venue boss has been hit with a restraining order after leading a convoy of protestors to the home of a council leader and intimidating his daughter.

Ian Grutchfield tried to enter the Boxford home of Babergh District Council leader John Ward during a demonstration over planned cuts to free parking in Sudbury and Hadleigh.

The 52-year-old director of Hadleigh Old School appeared at Suffolk Magistrates' Court on Friday to admit using threatening words or behaviour towards Eleanor Ward.

Ian Grutchfield, venue director and co-owner of Hadleigh Old School

Ian Grutchfield, venue director at Hadleigh Old School, was handed a 12-month community order, with 200 hours of unpaid work, - Credit: NEIL DIDSBURY

The court heard how Grutchfield, of Bridge Street, Hadleigh, arrived at the address by car, followed by about a dozen other vehicles, just before noon on December 30, to protest council plans to reduce free parking from three hours to 30 minutes.

Prosecutor Mark Milkovics said that Miss Ward, who was the only occupant of the property at the time, went outside to investigate when protestors parked outside and sounded their car horns.

Babergh Conservative leader John Ward said it was a good step for the councils to take. Picture: SAR

Babergh District Council leader, John Ward - Credit: Archant

He said Grutchfield then followed Miss Ward back towards the house, jamming his foot and half his body inside as she tried to close the door.

In a statement, Miss Ward said: "I was frightened they would get into the house.

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"I didn't know what they were there for, or whether they would turn violent." 

Jeremy Kendall, mitigating, said Grutchfield was a man of previous good character, who had since resigned as president of the local Conservative Association.

He said the issue of parking charges had been particularly emotive during a "nightmare year" in which many local businesses were forced to close.

"This was a foolish thing to do," said Mr Kendall.

"It personalised an issue that was a collective decision by the council. There were other ways to deal with it.

"His intention was simply to speak to Mr Ward, but his actions caused Miss Ward to be frightened."

Mr Kendall argued that a restraining order would be unnecessary as Grutchfield had learned some "painful lessons" and that there had been no similar incidents while awaiting his appearance at court.

Grutchfield was handed a 12-month community order, with 200 hours of unpaid work, and ordered to pay Miss Ward £500 in compensation.

He was also made the subject of a restraining order for 12 months.

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