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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 April, 2003, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Gypsy leader charges dropped
A caravan
The Smiths live at a caravan park near Wetherby
The owner of a North Yorkshire caravan park has walked free from court after an assault case against him collapsed.

Hughie Smith, the President of the National Gypsy Council, had been accused of threatening to burn out a family of travellers living on a site in Knaresborough.

On Tuesday, the charges against the 73-year-old and his nephew Charlie Smith, 36, were dropped at Harrogate Magistrates' Court.

The charges, denied by both men, related to an incident at the Thistle Hill travellers' site on 21 December 2002.

Missing photos

The court had heard Hughie Smith, who lives with his nephew on a caravan site in Bickerton, near Wetherby, had threatened to burn out the Varey family and Charlie had headbutted James Varey.

It was stated by James Varey that his alleged injuries had been photographed by police but no pictures had been put forward in evidence.

John Batchelor, defending, told the court a police officer had since arrived with a statement about the photos but there were still no photos.

The chairman of the bench John Carter said he and his colleagues felt there was a suspicion that the court process had been manipulated.

The prosecution agreed there was no realistic possibility of conviction and Mr Smith was formally dismissed from the court.

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