Gislingham farmer in dispute stages sit-in at Pakenham firm

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A farmer staged a sit-in with a tractor after getting upset that a company had ‘reneged’ on an agreement, a court has heard.

John Winston Gooderham asked for a refund after spending £18,000 on agricultural machinery from the Suffolk Agri-Centre in Pakenham, which he said did not work.

After not getting reimbursed, the 72-year-old staged a sit-in that lasted several hours. He also assaulted company director David Eley.

At Bury St Edmunds Magstrates’ Court on Wednesday, Gooderham, of Morleys Lane, Gislingham, pleaded guilty to assault by beating.

Colette Harper, prosecuting, told magistrates Gooderham had been a long-term customer of the Suffolk Agri when the dispute over a Welger baler began.

She said he had pulled a tractor up against the centre and refused to let staff or customers come or go until police arrived to move him off.

On another occasion, he brought Mr Eley a Bible and asked him to swear on it that he would get his money back. Mr Eley said he would try to and was accused of being a liar, said Mrs Harper.

Then, on October 14, after becoming verbally abusive, and ‘without warning or provocation,’ Gooderham leant across the counter and grabbed Mr Eley’s tie.

He pulled him forward, saying ‘I’m going to murder you, I’m strong enough to do it you know,’ said Mrs Harper, adding that Gooderham’s threat was of concern because he held firearms licences for four shotguns.

In mitigation, Declan Gallagher said the assault had not resulted in injury and ‘took place against a significant history’.

He said of Gooderham: “He sees himself as a straightforward, ordinary, farming man that asks nothing of other people than that he be dealt with on a straight basis.

“He paid £18,000 and an agreement had been reached that he would return the baler and he would get his money back. However, that agreement wasn’t honoured.”

Mr Gallagher said Gooderham had not threatened to murder Mr Eley ‘but did use some throw away wording like that he’s 72 years of age but isn’t a weak man’.

He told magistrates Gooderham had even turned down the offer of a police caution.

“He declined it on the basis that he wanted to have his day in court and thought this would be the backdoor way of resolving the baler dispute,” he said.

Gooderham was conditionally discharged for 12 months. He was ordered to pay £75 compensation, £85 costs and a victim surcharge of £15.