Cheshire farmer hurled billhook at cyclist who followed him home after row for not using cycle lane

Robert Fell was given a conditional discharge and described as a 'man of good character', but had to pay costs of £107

Robert Fell was given a conditional discharge and described as a ‘man of good character’, but had to pay costs of £107

A disabled farmer has been ordered to pay £107 for causing ‘distress’ to a cyclist who followed him home and confronted him when he was told to ‘get in the cycle lane’ during a road rage row.

Robert Fell, 66, threw a billhook – a scythe like farmyard tool – at cyclist Andrew Smith, who is in his 30s, that damaged his £2,950 bicycle after he ventured onto his land for a showdown.

The pair had exchanged a war of words in the tiny hamlet of Millington, near Knutsford, Cheshire, when Mr Fell was forced to overtake him while a cycleway running parallel to the road lay empty. 

Mr Fell pleaded guilty to causing harassment alarm and distress after his not guilty pleas to assault and criminal damage were accepted at Stockport Magistrates’ Court.

Mr Smith was not in court but claimed £2,195 worth of damage was caused to his expensive bike but magistrates’ refused to order Fell to pay any compensation, as the victim had been on private property at the time of the attack. 

Magistrate Ravji Patel said: ‘The victim has been onto private property where it says ‘do not enter’ and it made the defendant vulnerable. Therefore, there is to be no order for compensation.’ 

The court heard on April 8 this year, Mr Smith, who is in his 30s, told the farmer in his van that he was ‘too close’ as he overtook him, which prompted Fell, who was just yards from home, to wind down the window of his VW Transporter van and retort: ‘Well get on the cycle path then!’

After the incident unfolded at around 3pm, Mr Smith followed Fell back to his nearby farm, the court was told.

Shortly after Fell got out of his vehicle Mr Smith walked passed a ‘Private Property Keep Out’ sign on a private road and confronted the elderly farmer in his yard saying: ‘Why are you speaking to me like that?’

Fell fired back: ‘Got off my lane!’ before grabbing the billhook, a tool used to trim tree saplings, and hurled it towards Mr Smith, causing damage to the carbon framed L6 Sport Disc Road Bike. He was arrested shortly afterwards at the rural premises.  

Fell was this week conditionally discharged for 12 months and ordered to pay £107 in costs and surcharges. 

A war of words broke out between Fell and cyclist Andrew Smith after the motorist was accused of being 'too close' while overtaking him on the main road

A war of words broke out between Fell and cyclist Andrew Smith after the motorist was accused of being ‘too close’ while overtaking him on the main road

The farmer told cyclist Andrew Smith to 'get on the cycle path then' after he was forced to overtake him on the main road, close to his home. Pictured: The empty cycle path near Mr Fell's farm

The farmer told cyclist Andrew Smith to ‘get on the cycle path then’ after he was forced to overtake him on the main road, close to his home. Pictured: The empty cycle path near Mr Fell’s farm

The court heard Fell had experienced various ‘difficulties’ with cyclists failing to use the cycle lane which was built in 2017 next to his property as part of the £200m A556 Northwich by-pass scheme.

The three year highways project involved a new dual carriageway being built from Altrincham to Chester while parts of the old main Chester Road going through the millionaire’s village of Mere was narrowed to accommodate cyclists riding along the so-called ‘Tatton Trail.’

Defence lawyer Lesley Herman said: ‘Mr Fell lives near a new motorway junction and a cycle path has been put in place at some expense to the government. It is very close to his property and he has a lot of difficulty with cyclists who do not choose to use this cycle path.

‘The complainant was the one who said ‘you are too close’ and the defendant then responded by saying “Well get on the cycle path then”. He then went home and did not think there was going to be any problem.

The court heard Fell had experienced various 'difficulties' with cyclists failing to use the cycle lane (pictured) which was built in 2017 next to his property as part of the £200m A556 Northwich by-pass scheme

The court heard Fell had experienced various ‘difficulties’ with cyclists failing to use the cycle lane (pictured) which was built in 2017 next to his property as part of the £200m A556 Northwich by-pass scheme

‘But Mr Smith went along a private road for some distance to get to his house. There is a sign that says ‘private property keep out’ and Mr Fell was surprised to find someone on his property.

‘He had a serious accident at work and is a man who has to walk on crutches – and there was a young man on his property. He accepts that he misread the situation and the cyclist said ‘why are you speaking to me like that?’

‘It is a working farm and he has equipment which he is using. A billhook was in his right hand and he was concerned so he threw it in the direction of the cyclist but at the floor and it caused a scratch on the bike.

‘If he had intended to throw it at Mr Smith himself, it would have caused him some damage. He just wanted to frighten him and for Mr Smith to leave.

‘It is a very unfortunate incident and he knows he cannot behave in that way and that he has to see it the other way the person would have seen it. He accepts Mr Smith would have been concerned for his safety.’ 

Nick Smart prosecuting said: ‘Andrew Smith was on his pedal cycle on Chester Road just outside of Knutsford. The defendant was in his Volkswagen Transporter and he said ‘get on the cycle path’ out of the window to the cyclist.

‘Mr Smith then followed the driver and approached at his premises. He had followed him from where the defendant had driven back from and confronted the defendant who shouted ‘Get off my lane’. The defendant had a a piece of farm equipment in his right hand and situation deteriorated.

‘This gentleman has thrown or put down the item which has made contact with the complainants bike. The complainant contacted the police and the defendant was arrested for his behaviour at the time. He was spoken to in interview.

‘There is a degree of uncertainty as to whether the items were thrown or put down but it made contact with the bike and that is what caused the damage.

‘He accepted in interview, if it had been thrown with any great venom it would have caused more damage other than chipping to the wheel and wheel arch. The prosecution accept the damage would not have been £2500 or anywhere near that in my view.

Fell pleaded guilty at Stockport Magistrates' Court to causing harassment alarm and distress after his not guilty pleas to assault and criminal damage were accepted

Fell pleaded guilty at Stockport Magistrates’ Court to causing harassment alarm and distress after his not guilty pleas to assault and criminal damage were accepted

‘Whilst I think it is right there is a guilty plea, there is a fair degree of latitude. Mr Smith may have trespassed in his land but he should not have had a weapon in his hand.

‘The defendant is essentially a man of good character. He has had difficulties with the police, but they were over 20 years ago.’

Fell was conditionally discharged for 12 months and ordered to pay £107 in costs and surcharges.

JP Ravji Patel said: ‘The victim has been onto private property where it says ‘do not enter’ and it made the defendant vulnerable. Therefore, there is to be no order for compensation.’

At home Fell decline to comment. His wife Linda said: ‘We just want to put this behind us and move forward with our lives.’

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