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Archive - Tuesday, 9 January 2001
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I was victim of police vendetta - Reynolds
SAFEBREAKER turned business tycoon George Reynolds was back in court yesterday - to accuse police of waging a vendetta against him.
The flamboyant owner of Darlington Football Club is suing Cleveland Police over an incident in 1992 in which he was arrested and locked up overnight.
The arrest followed a complaint by his ex-sister-in-law that he had threatened to damage her property.
The arrest came the day before Mr Reynolds was due to appear at a family court to fight for custody of his daughter, Victoria, following his acrimonious split from his second wife.
Conducting his own case, Mr Reynolds, 64, outlined to Judge Michael Taylor the basis for his claim against Cleveland Police for wrongful arrest, unlawful detention and malicious prosecution.
Mr Reynolds told of his rags-to-riches story which began in the backstreets of Sunderland where his first conviction was for stealing cigarettes which he traded for bread for his family.
He described how he progressed to safebreaking and was jailed for four years in the 1960s. In jail, a Catholic priest persuaded him to go straight and he learned to read and write and studied business.
After his release, he worked for 11 years without a day off, establishing his business empire, now valued around £250m.
"When I was jailed for a four-stretch, I never made a single complaint," said Mr Reynolds. "I pleaded guilty and I took it on the chin like a man. I did my porridge.
"Now I have been shouting for nine years about one night in a cell because I know there has been a great miscarriage of justice and a police conspiracy."
Mr Reynolds alleged petty jealousy and bitterness lay behind the actions of the police.
"In the North of England it is a very serious offence to be successful, ambitious and to work hard. When you reap the benefits, like a Rolls Royce, people think, 'what's he doing, he's nothing but a criminal'."
Mr Reynolds said he was arrested 25 years ago and charged with a string of "trumped up charges" which were thrown out by a judge. He claimed a senior Durham Police officer had borne a grudge ever since.
The court heard how Mr Reynolds split from his second wife, Karen Brown, in the early 1990s and a battle ensued for custody of their child, Victoria. The court hearing was due on August 11, 1992, but Mr Reynolds said that the day before, two police officers from Cleveland arrested him at his factory following a telephone complaint from Mr Reynolds' former sister-in-law accusing his of making threats, charges he strenuously denied.
Mr Reynolds said he was held at Stockton police station and initially it was agreed he be released on bail.
However, he claims, after a "flurry" of phone calls involving senior officers from Durham and Cleveland he was detained overnight.
"Durham police had been waiting 25 years for the opportunity to get me. I was marched out of my offices, in front of my staff and locked up for 24 hours.
"There was no evidence at all against me except one phone call. If that is enough, then it means anyone can get someone locked up simply by ringing the police and making a claim."
Mr Reynolds said he was forced to appear before the family court the next day unwashed and unshaven.
He believed police detained him overnight to cause him problems the next day, though the family court did award him custody of his daughter.
"I am dyslexic, backward and illiterate, according to a school report, but I have more common sense than them," he said.
"I am street wise. I know the difference between right and wrong, and I am right about this."
However, questioned by the judge, Mr Reynolds conceded that the police had acted correctly when they decided to look into claims that he had made threatening phone calls.
The judge asked: "Do you accept that the police were entitled to investigate?"
Mr Reynolds answered: "Yes, definitely."
Cleveland Police insist they were within their rights to detain Mr Reynolds. The case continues.