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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 January 2006, 18:39 GMT
Labour activist 'attacked Tory'
Labour Party worker David Harding
Labour Party worker David Harding appeared before magistrates
A Labour Party campaign manager punched and grabbed the throat of a Tory activist on the eve of the 2005 general election, a court has heard.

Labour Party worker David Harding is alleged to have set upon Robert Benham, parliamentary assistant to Romford Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell.

Havering Magistrates heard on Tuesday the assault took place outside Romford Railway Station on 4 May, 2005.

Mr Harding, 48, of Hornchurch, Essex, denies common assault.

He has also denies a charge of using abusive words or behaviour.

Rekha Kodikara, prosecuting, told the court Mr Harding and 25-year-old Mr Benham had been part of two competing groups of canvassers outside the station.

'Lashed out'

She said Mr Harding had been using a loudspeaker to canvass voters and suggested that Mr Rosindell had "acted inappropriately" when campaigning.

Robert Benham
I went forward and the accused tried to strangle me and forced me to the ground, digging his fingers into my neck
Robert Benham

She said Mr Benham had recorded these remarks on his mobile phone. Mr Harding then approached him and said: "You are in big trouble."

When the Labour canvassers had left the area, Mr Harding returned to the station with about two other men and attacked Mr Benham, Ms Kodikara said.

She said the situation then "spiralled out of control" and Mr Harding "lashed out at anyone who stood in his way".

Giving evidence, Mr Benham said he was punched and the accused tried to strangle him.

He told the court: "I got a punch or a palm to the head. I went forward and the accused tried to strangle me and forced me to the ground, digging his fingers into my neck."

Mr Benham said he had to undergo three months of physiotherapy for muscle damage.

The case continues.




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