Carlton Colville woman cleared of assaults

WHEN 54-year-old Yvonne Cockerill went to talk to her husband about their divorce she never imagined it would end up with her being arrested for assaulting her step-daughter and facing magistrates.

For more than three months Mrs Cockerill has faced the anguish of waiting to hear if she would be found guilty of assault by using the back of her hand to fend off her husband's daughter and cousin in Suffolk.

And yesterday a relieved Mrs Cockerill, from Thixendale, Carlton Colville, was found not guilty by Norwich magistrates of the two assaults as they believed her argument she had acted in self-defence.

Magistrates heard she had fended off the two women because she feared for her safety after her husband Kenneth Cockerill had pushed her to the ground outside his parents' home in Gillingham, near Beccles.

After the hearing her solicitor hailed the decision as common sense and said the day-long trial should never have gone ahead in the first place as it was a matrimonial dispute.

Mrs Cockerill, who uses a walking stick and has severe arthritis, appeared in the dock following an incident in Forge Road, Gillingham, on July 31. She had gone to her husband's parents' bungalow to talk about some divorce papers.

The court was told when she arrived her husband asked her to leave and grabbed her by the arms to make her leave.

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As he grabbed her she fell, with Mrs Cockeril saying he had pushed her to the ground – an allegation denied by him in court.

After falling to the floor Mr Cockerill's cousin Judith Wilkinson came out of the bungalow to help Mrs Cockerill.

However, as Mrs Wilkinson picked her up, Mrs Cockerill used the back of her hand to push her away as she did not know who had approached her and feared for her safety.

Mrs Wilkinson told the court: 'As I was picking her up she swung around her arm and hit me in my face. I stood there in shock.'

Mrs Cockerill said: 'I was frightened I would be pushed again. So I lashed out.'

After Mrs Cockerill lashed out, her husband was then said to have frog- marched her from his parents' property.

Mr Cockerill's daughter, Lauren Cockerill, was then described as standing with her face close to her stepmother and verbally abusing her as she was leaving.

Again Mrs Cockerill lashed out with her the back of her hand.

She told magistrates: 'I thought she was going to sock me in the mouth. I just wanted to get away and get in my car.'

Giving evidence for the prosecution her husband, who has been with her for 14 years, described his wife's behaviour on his parents' doorstep.

The engineer said: 'She was very quiet. She did not say anything and just stood there. I could smell alcohol. I lightly grabbed hold of her on the arms and said 'you are drunk, please leave.''

Mrs Cockerill denied having any alcohol that day but had admitted she had hit both women in self-defence. She had no previous convictions.

The dispute led to Mrs Cockerill being visited at her home by police and then questioned by a Great Yarmouth CID officer.

It led to two court appearances and the other three parties being interviewed by police.

After the case her solicitor Kevin Batch said: 'It is unfortunate a lady of good character was at risk of being criminalised for a matter arising out of matrimonial differences, which surely could have dealt with outside the justice system.

'There were occasions when the criminal courts are asked to do the work of family courts.'