Exeter Clergyman's shock at assault
A CLERGYMAN at Exeter Cathedral who was punched to the floor by a drunken woman after politely asking her to stop swearing has spoken of his shock over the incident.
Canon Carl Turner told the Echo he had approached Sharon Thornton and a friend of hers and asked them to calm down as they were causing distress to users of Cathedral Green in August 11.
Thornton, 39, had been drinking with a friend, then lashed out at Mr Turner, punching him in the face.
His glasses were broken and he fell to the floor. The clergyman's phone was also smashed as he tried to record evidence of the attack.
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Thornton pleaded guilty to assault by beating, a public order offence and criminal damage, and was jailed for 18 weeks when she appeared via video link at Exeter Magistrates' Court.
Prosecutor Mark Haddow said: "The incident occurred on one of the few warm days last summer, and there were a number of families there. She was under the influence of alcohol.
"The victim was a reverend and had been constantly interrupted from his work by swearing and shouting, so he went over to speak to them."
Mr Haddow said Mr Turner approached Thornton's friend, who was lying on the ground, when he was hit by the defendant.
Defending, Stephen Nunn said: "It's clear at the time, in addition to being in drink, she was mentally ill."
Thornton was handed concurrent sentences for the offences, which she admitted at an earlier hearing.
After the case Mr Turner said: "I feel strongly that the Cathedral Green and Close should be a safe place for all people to enjoy. I remember the day in question and there was a lot of anti-social behaviour, which is unacceptable with visitors and children around.
"No one should be subjected to verbal or physical abuse. People were walking away and leaving the area because of what was happening.
"I went out and all I said to her was 'please will you stop swearing?' when she hit me very hard. It floored me. It was all a bit of a shock. My face was bleeding and police believe I was knocked out for a moment.
"My glasses were smashed but I got up and tried to take a photo of her on my mobile phone as the police had not yet arrived. She smashed my phone but by this time people were coming across to help.
"I lived in east London for 11 years, yet nothing like this has ever happened to me before.
"I take it very seriously that the green is a place for all people. But you always need to be careful in tackling anti-social behaviour."
He added: "Whether I would do the same again would depend on what sort of anti-social behaviour was being committed and whether I would allow the police to deal with the incident or intervene myself.
"But all I did in this instance was simply ask the woman politely to stop swearing. She did not seem to be much of a physical threat at the time."