Mechanic who killed vandal by pinning down his neck during citizen’s arrest is jailed for three years

Ross McGuinness
·4 min read
Christopher Walters, left, died after he was pinned down by a mechanic who chased him from a garage in Staffordshire. (Reach)
Christopher Walters, left, died after he was pinned down by a mechanic who chased him from a garage in Staffordshire. (Reach)

A mechanic who killed a vandal during a citizen’s arrest by pinning him down by the neck has been jailed for three years.

Benjamin Hunt, 32, from Heathcote Street, Longton, Staffordshire, chased after Christopher Walters after he had damaged a car with a hammer.

After catching Mr Walters, Hunt held him by the neck on the ground for several minutes, using his body weight to pin him down even after he had lost consciousness.

When police arrived at the scene on 15 May, 2019, they found Mr Walters “limp and lifeless”. The 25-year-old was pronounced dead later that afternoon.

Hunt was sentenced at Stafford Crown Court on Friday to 38 months in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

Read more: Police rescue two dogs left locked in hot car while owners shopped

Jonathan Hassall, who owned the New Road Garage in Speedwell Street where Hunt worked and was also involved in the incident, died by suicide before he was due to go on trial for manslaughter.

The two men were working at the garage when Mr Walters used a sledgehammer to smash the windows of an Audi car belonging to Mr Hassall’s son.

The pair chased Mr Walters and caught up to him in nearby Wood Street.

Prosecutor Robert Price said: "Mr Hunt then held Mr Walters around the neck. Mr Hassall held him to the lower body. Mr Walters, in the initial stage, was resisting and shouting unusual comments.

"Mr Hunt did not release at that point as he was fearful of what Mr Walters might do to him or those around him. 

Christopher Walters, pictured, was killed after being held down by the neck. (Reach)
Christopher Walters, pictured, was killed after being held down by the neck. (Reach)
Stafford Crown Court where Drayton Manor theme park's operators have been fined ??1 million after safety failings which led to the death of 11-year-old Evha Jannath on its water rapids ride on May 9 2017. Picture date: Thursday March 18, 2021.
The case was heard at Stafford Crown Court. (PA)

“There came a point where Mr Walters stopped resisting. Mr Hunt thought he was either asleep or unconscious.

"When Mr Walters stopped resisting, and when he was clearly unconscious, Mr Hunt should have released his hold of Mr Walters' neck. He did not. His actions at that point, he acknowledged, became excessive and unlawful."

The court heard that Mr Walters left his home earlier that day and met up with some friends, who told police he seemed "stressed and ill at ease”, but it is unclear why he damaged the car. 

He and Hunt were not known to each other before the incident, the court heard.

The court heard Hunt was still on top of Mr Walters when police arrived at the scene after being called 19 minutes earlier.

A post-mortem examination found signs of oxygen deprivation in Mr Walters's brain, and significant bruising to his neck. The cause of death was given as compression of the neck.

Barry White, mitigating, said Hunt, a father-of-two with no previous convictions, had learned a "very hard lesson".

Mr White said: "He apprehended Mr Walters and he held him until the police arrived. Perhaps, I would submit, those are actions that could have been the actions of any of us had we been involved in a similar situation.

Benjamin Hunt worked as a mechanic at this garage in Longton, Staffordshire. (Reach)
Benjamin Hunt worked as a mechanic at this garage in Longton, Staffordshire. (Reach)

"But he accepts his plea, and he accepts he held on for too long. He acknowledges that once Mr Walters had lost consciousness, he should have let go."

Mr White told the court the death of Mr Hassall had also had a huge impact on Hunt.

He said: "That, in addition to his own current feelings in relation to Mr Walters, is an additional factor here, an additional punishment – something he will have to live with for the rest of his life."

Read more: Fraudster who stole from charity preschool ordered to pay back £30k

Judge Kristina Montgomery told Hunt she accepted his claim that his purpose had been to apprehend someone he believed to be an offender.

But she said Mr Walters's death was a consequence of Hunt holding on after it was no longer necessary for him to do so, at which point there was an "appreciable risk of causing harm".

Judge Montgomery added: "It is my view that in the early part of your pursuit and restraint of Christopher Walters, there were actions that were lawful. 

“But it quickly became – when Mr Walters was on the ground – an act of detention. That may have been lawful, in so far as the force you used was proportionate.

"But there came a point where you were no longer acting in such a way that was consistent with necessity, let alone proportionality."

Watch the latest videos from Yahoo UK News