Chris Whitty: 'Yobbish' ex-estate agent handed suspended sentence for assaulting England's chief medical officer

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A "yobbish" former estate agent who assaulted England's chief medical officer has been handed a suspended jail sentence.

Lewis Hughes, of Romford, Essex, left Professor Chris Whitty "humiliated" after he accosted him in St James's Park in London on 27 June, Westminster Magistrates' Court heard.

Hughes put the chief medical officer in a headlock after he declined to take a photo with the 24-year-old.

Footage of the incident, lasting around 20 seconds, was widely shared on social media.

Hughes, who was sacked from his job, admitted a charge of assault by beating at the court on Friday.

He was sentenced to eight weeks in prison suspended for two years and ordered to pay £100 in compensation.

Senior district judge Paul Goldspring told the defendant: "He goes about his very difficult job without the expectation of yobs like you accosting him, assaulting him.

"And to compound it all, he was further humiliated by that video being posted."

The judge said Hughes' actions "undermined" the efforts of key workers throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

He also described the chief medical officer as someone who has led with "great dignity and professionalism" throughout the pandemic.

Mr Goldspring said he believed Prof Whitty would donate the £100 compensation awarded to him to charity, saying it would be the "mark of the man".

He told Hughes: "Let it be a lesson to you, yobbish behaviour and drinking alcohol has consequences."

Luke Staton, prosecuting, told the court Prof Whitty had not intended to report the footage until it had been released online.

He said Prof Whitty had been walking in the park when he was asked for a photograph by three individuals to which he declined.

The court heard Hughes then placed Prof Whitty in a "loose headlock" before he broke free and went to a nearby police officer.

Prof Whitty had recognised that the defendants were not "aggressive" but he doubted their intentions in asking for a photograph, the court heard.

Laurie-Anne Power, defending, said: "Ten seconds of madness has cost this young, ambitious man his future."

Ms Power said Hughes is "remorseful for his actions" and has paid a "heavy price" through losing his job as an estate agent.

She added he is a man of "exemplary good character" who has brought "humiliation" on himself and his family.

A second man Jonathan Chew, 24, denied assault in relation to the incident.

Chew, who wore a navy hoodie for the appearance, also pleaded not guilty to wilfully obstructing police constable Steven Ozden.

He was granted bail and was asked to appear at the same court on 23 November for a trial.

The court heard Prof Whitty is expected to give evidence at the trial.

It comes after the Metropolitan Police force launched an investigation into last month's incident.

At the time, officers carried out a welfare check on the chief medical officer, who did not suffer any injuries.

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