2 days ago
Two fathers' rights protesters who handcuffed former children's minister Margaret Hodge during a protest have been cleared of false imprisonment.
Jonathan Stanesby, 41, and Jason Hatch, 35, shackled the MP for Barking during a family law conference at the Lowry Hotel in Salford in 2004.
The minister, who now works in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, was trapped in the rigid police-style cuffs for around 15 minutes and had to be released using bolt cutters.
During the complex two-and-a-half-week trial at Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court the pair defended their actions, claiming it was part of a reasonable political protest.
The eight-woman, four-man jury took four hours and 42 minutes to find both defendants not guilty of one count each of false imprisonment.
The verdicts were met with cheers and applause from Fathers4Justice supporters in the public gallery. Mr Hatch, who became famous after scaling the walls of Buckingham Palace dressed as Batman, thanked the jury.
Mrs Hodge gave evidence in the trial and described how she was "distressed" by the activists' actions.
Mr Stanesby, of Ivybridge, Devon, told the minister she was being "arrested" for covering up child abuse before slapping the cuffs on to her wrist, a court heard. This was a reference to Mrs Hodge's time as a councillor in Islington, north London, during an investigation into child sex abuse.
Mr Hatch, of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, also attempted to handcuff the Cabinet minister but was blocked from reaching her by Mrs Hodge's assistant private secretary.
The incident took place shortly after 10am on November 19 and was designed to achieve greater publicity for the men's cause.