Charles Bronson tells jury: For once in my life I really am innocent

Olivia Tobin
Court sketch of Charles Bronson listening to Mark Docherty give evidence at Leeds Crown Court: PA

Notorious prisoner Charles Bronson has told a jury “for once in my life I really am innocent” after he allegedly attacked a prison governor.

The 66-year-old is accused of pinning HMP Wakefield governor Mark Docherty to the ground and threatening to bite his nose off.

Bronson, who was played by actor Tom Hardy in a self-titled film, denies attempting to seriously harm Mr Docherty before he was due to attend a welfare meeting.

Prosecutors say Bronson was heard whistling the tune of The Great Escape film before he launched himself on the governor, before prison staff restrained him.

The court also heard how Bronson allegedly wanted to attack him “for months”.

Leeds Crown Court heard before his wedding to actress Paula Williamson at the prison in November 2017, Bronson had been told he and his new wife would be given 22 wedding photographs, all taken by prison staff, but Mr Docherty later changed his decision.

A court sketch of Bronson in Leeds Crown Court (PA)

Bronson, who is representing himself, sang the oath as he started giving evidence in his defence from the dock and stood throughout.

He said: "Members of the jury, here I am facing the biggest farce probably in prison history and that's why I am here today."

He said he had planned to call three witnesses, including his wife, but explained it would be "very, very cruel" to do so because she was now in a rehab clinic after taking an overdose and had "almost died".

He said their divorce was "in the process" and he had "lost a loving beautiful wife over all this nonsense".

Explaining the incident on January 25, he said: "When I went into that room there has been a lot said about me whistling the Great Escape.

“Great tune. I am always whistling, I am always singing. I am always happy, most of the time. So it's not unusual and I don't understand why they have made a big issue of it.

"When I went into the room I was not happy at all with the governor. I don't like him, make no bones about it. An arrogant, ignorant man.

"When I went into that room there was nothing in my mind whatsoever to attack the governor. Coming from me, the man of violence most of my life. I will put my hands up to that, I have been a very nasty man in my time.

A van carrying Charles Bronson arriving at Leeds Crown Court (PA)

"I was going to grab him in a bear hug, a gentle one. No intention of harming him and I was going to whisper in his ear: 'where's my wife's photos?'

"Unfortunately, me being who I am, I believe the staff, the prison officers, actually over-reacted. I can understand why. I am not blaming them.

"If I had hurt that man, punched him... I would be standing here pleading guilty and I would deserve everything that happened.

"I never injured him and I never intended to injure him. It was more of a wake-up call for him, a reality check - you may be the governor, a man of power, do whatever you want to me, but don't mess around with my family."

He said his nose-biting comment, caught on bodycam footage, was "horrible" but they were "just words".

Bronson said: "It's a figure of speech. I would never dream of biting someone's nose off."

He told jurors how he had been making progress in prison but it "wasn't to be".

He said: "This incident has cost me dearly but for once in my life I really am an innocent man. Thank you very much for listening to me."

Bronson agreed with prosecutor Carl Fitch his relationship with Mr Docherty had been "poor" for the last two years.

He said he was "upset" about the decision a few days before his wedding to not allow the photographs to be taken out of prison and for two guests not to be allowed to attend.

Paula Williamson, the wife of prisoner Charles Bronson, stands in Downing Street, London, with a Charles Bronson look-alike (PA Archive/PA Images)

But he said he went ahead with the ceremony and photographs were taken.

He said: "Hopefully I had little bit of faith that somewhere down the line they may review it and say 'Charlie, we have made a mistake, you can have your photos'."

Bronson said he remained "very upset" his mother could not have the photographs as she would "certainly never sell those photos".

Mr Fitch outlined a number of Bronson's previous convictions including inflicting actual bodily harm on the governor of HMP Woodhill in 2014 when he grabbed him by his neck and started to choke him.

The court heard that attack followed the governor deciding to stop Bronson's post going out.

Bronson said: "My mother's post by the way. I should have punched him a few more times as well.

"You don't mess around with elderly ladies, especially my mother."

Bronson said he believed he may have tripped as he went into the room to see Mr Docherty.

"His injuries, minor as they are, could well have been caused by another officer," he said.

"It's a possibility, it happens. If I was going to attack him he would have had serious facial injuries.

"I agree my behaviour on that video is atrocious. It's the way I talk. It's the way I express myself."

Bronson, currently at HMP Frankland in Durham and who is standing trial under the name Charles Salvador, denies a charge of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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