The man behind the company that is trying to buy Northumberland battery startup Britishvolt has been arrested and charged over allegations of assault and harassment.
Court documents filed in New York show that David Collard, 39, faces the charges after an alleged incident on Madison Avenue on 15 November.
The allegations mark yet another twist in the troubled takeover of Britishvolt, which went into administration in January 2023.
Mr Collard entered a not guilty plea at a court hearing last month and told ITV News in a statement that the incident “transpired as a consequence of my endeavours to ensure the safety of a friend and myself”.
What are the allegations?
David Collard has been charged with two counts of assault in the third degree, along with three counts of harassment.
The New York court filings, first uncovered by the Australian news website OpenPolitics.au, show that the complainant alleges that Mr Collard struck them "about the face with a closed fist, causing a laceration to the right side of the face and substantial pain".
The alleged incident took place on Madison Avenue in Manhattan at around 1:30am on 15 November 2023.
An initial court hearing was held on 4 December, at which Mr Collard, represented by legal aid attorney Alyssa Myers, entered a not guilty plea. A trial date has been set for 23 February.
Under New York law, assault in the third degree is a class A misdemeanour carries a punishment of up to a year in jail.
Who is David Collard?
Scale Facilitation, through its subsidiary Recharge Industries, agreed to pay £8.5 million for the business, which had planned to build a £3.8 billion battery gigafactory in Cambois near Blyth in Northumberland.
In June, the Australian offices of another subsidiary of Scale Facilitation, SaniteX, were raided by the serious financial crime task force of Australian Federal Police as part of an investigation into alleged taxation fraud. At the time, Scale Facilitation denied any wrongdoing.
In August, ITV News revealed that Mr Collard’s company had failed to pay the final instalment to complete the purchase of was Britishvolt, with administrators EY describing it as “unpaid and overdue”. Scale Facilitation at the time said “we dispute we are in default” of the business sale agreement.
What has David Collard said?
In a statement released to ITV News, Mr Collard wrote that it is "disconcerting to discover that this private matter is slated for public exposure for commercial purposes".
He continued: "Nevertheless, the incident transpired as a consequence of my endeavours to ensure the safety of a friend and myself. I have entered a plea of not guilty, with full anticipation of an eventual dismissal.
"On the specified evening, I was contacted by a female friend experiencing harassment. Confronting the individual, an altercation ensued due to his aggressive behaviour. In self-defence, I took appropriate measures. Subsequently, he contacted the police, necessitating my participation in the impending court proceedings that you will be covering."
What has the reaction been?
The local MP, Ian Lavery, said the ongoing turbulence around the project means it's time for the government to step in.
“I think the government have got to intervene,” he said. “We cannot have another lengthy period with nothing happening and then it going belly-up. And then the MPs and everybody concerned fighting on behalf of the community have then got to start all over again.
The Labour MP for Wansbeck added that the site in Cambois is “the best site in Europe for the gigafactory” and that he wanted to discuss with the government “how we unlock this jam we seem to be in, and that we've been in before. We've got to try and resolve this situation.”
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