Footballer from Dartford fined for taking photo of Crystal Palace player in court
PUBLISHED: 19:01 04 June 2018
A footballer has been fined for taking a picture in court as his friend, Crystal Palace captain Jason Puncheon, was handed a community order for lashing out with his belt at a group outside a nightclub.
Ben Chorley, who gave his address as Oakfield Lane in Dartford, was dramatically charged just moments after Puncheon was sentenced on Monday, June 4, for a public order offence.
Bromley FC player Chorley was fined £1,000 for taking a photograph and a short clip during the hearing at Staines Magistrates’ Court.
The pair had been on a night out with their wives in December when an early morning fight broke out.
Puncheon was seen to twice strike out with his belt in the melee, before telling a bouncer who tried to return it to him that he should keep it and buy a house with it.
The 31-year-old was “irate” after the December 17 incident outside Mishiko nightclub in Surrey and challenged police to arrest him, the court heard.
The evening had been pleasant up until the point another man interrupted himself and his wife dancing, Puncheon told the court.
He said the man, unknown to him, had put his arm around him and when asked not to do so began insulting him.
After leaving the nightclub and going to their chauffeur-driven car, Puncheon said another woman attempted to strike his wife as he ushered her into the vehicle.
He said his friend, Chorley, who the court heard had given police the name Steven Cotter after the incident, was punched by someone else during the incident in Church Street.
Chorley had been sitting at the back of Staines Magistrates’ Court throughout the hearing, but ended up in the dock after being accused of contempt of court.
Moments after sentencing Puncheon, District Judge Michael Snow ordered Chorley to hand over his mobile phone.
He told him: “Mr Chorley, you are now charged with contempt of court. You have taken a photograph in the court of Mr Puncheon in the dock.”
Chorley, 35, was held in custody as he awaited legal advice prior to his sentencing.
He told the judge: “I’ve never been in court before so I can only apologise profusely. I didn’t know, from the bottom of my heart, that I wasn’t allowed to even take a picture.”
He said he had seen journalists sitting next to him using their phones and thought he was allowed to use his.
He said he had come to court to support his friend, adding: “I can only apologise. I am just taken aback by it.”
Judge Snow told Chorley he had seven days to pay his £1,000 fine.
He said he accepted “with some surprise” that the footballer may not have been aware of the rules prohibiting the taking of pictures in court.
He also said Chorley, a father-of-two, may have been “lulled” after seeing journalists “quite legitimately doing what they are entitled to do” by reporting on proceedings.
Puncheon had been due to face trial but changed his plea to guilty at the last minute, admitting a section 4 public order offence of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause fear or provoke unlawful violence.
Sallie Bennett-Jenkins QC described her client, who has three children with his wife and also looks after her child from a previous relationship, as a family man.
She said the incident was an “utterly isolated matter”.
Puncheon was handed a community order, requiring him to carry out 210 hours of unpaid work, and was told to pay £250 compensation to a man he struck out at with his belt.
He was also ordered to pay £930 towards prosecution costs and an £85 government surcharge.
A further charge of assault by beating was dropped after no evidence was offered by the prosecution.
The court heard Puncheon has a previous conviction for assaulting a police officer in 2004, for which he received a 12-month conditional discharge, and driving offences including no insurance and no licence four years later.