County Durham farmer flipped car using forklift tractor on his land ‘in self-defence'

A County Durham farmer who used a forklift tractor to flip a car after it had been parked on his drive has claimed he was acting in lawful self-defence, a court was told.

Robert Hooper drove at the car on his farm in Newbiggin-in-Teesdale, lifted it in the air and turned it onto its roof before pushing it into a road in an incident that was filmed.

A video clip, shot by the vehicle’s driver, showed Hooper using his vehicle to remove a Vauxhall Corsa from his land last June. 

Durham Crown Court heard that Hooper - who denies dangerous driving and criminal damage to the vehicle - swung the tractor around and knocked Charlie Burns, a friend of the driver Elliott Johnson, to the ground after hitting him with the lifting rails, causing bruises.

Elliott Johnson, the driver, passed by Hooper’s farm when his silver Vauxhall Corsa - a courtesy car - suffered a double puncture.

Mr Burns, 21, told the court he was walking home from Teesdale - 52 miles from his home in South Tyneside - after spending the day at Low Force waterfall when he spotted his friend, Mr Johnson, who had suffered the punctures.

David Ward, prosecuting, said the farmer asked the driver and his friend to move the vehicle, but was told they would not be long as they were arranging recovery of the car.

When interviewed by police, Hooper said the men with the car had immediately become aggressive when he asked them to move their vehicle, and that he had been he had acted in lawful self-defence after being assaulted, Mr Ward told jurors.

Michael Rawlinson, defending, suggested Mr Burns had been "obnoxious, aggressive, anti-social and confrontational", which he denied.

Burns denied being drunk at the time, saying he had consumed six or seven bottles of Corona lager.

Mr Rawlinson said: "You started the trouble on that day, Mr Hooper was going about his daily life and he was doing his job and you were looking for trouble, for whatever reason."

The defence barrister claimed that Mr Burns lost his temper and assaulted the farmer, cutting his lip - a suggestion which he denied.

The trial continues in Durham Crown Court.