Henry Mears Guilty Of Threatening Barrister

One of two brothers jailed for running a Lapland-style theme park in the New Forest has avoided a prison sentence after being found guilty of contempt of court.

60-year-old Henry Mears from Brighton was sentenced to 28 days suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay £750 costs after being found guilty of threatening barrister Gary Lucie on the eve of the Lapland trial in November last year.

Mears, a former greengrocer turned taxi driver, leered over the prosecutor and told him that ''mechanisms were in place to hold those responsible'' for bringing the case to trial.

Mr Lucie was so shocked by the threat that he brought the matter to the attention of the Lapland trial judge, Judge Mark Horton, who ordered that Mears should be prosecuted for contempt of court.

After a one-day summary trial at Bristol Crown Court, Judge Carol Hagen ruled that Mears was in contempt of court when he threatened Mr Lucie.

''I am in no doubt that the words said were as Mr Lucie said to the court and neither am I in any doubt to the tone in which the words were said or to the defendant's demeanour as he said them,'' Judge Hagen said.

In reading her judgment, the judge repeated the threat made by Mears and added:

''It is difficult to see how that can be regarded as anything but a threat of retribution if the trial proceeded.

''I have no doubt they were spoken in the heat of the moment and that Henry Mears would not have carried out his threat, but I find that using those words in the manner he did, he intended to interfere in the course of justice.''

Judge Hagen said she accepted that the Mears family were ''close knit'' and that Mears was genuinely concerned for the health of his older brother Victor, 67, who had been taken ill that day.

Mears, from Coombe Road in Brighton, denied contempt of court and giving evidence blamed a bad back for leaning over Mr Lucie.

He denied using the phrase ''mechanisms were in place'' and added:

''I said to Mr Lucie, 'I think trading standards, when you look at all this, should be made responsible if anything happens to him (Victor Mears). He is very, very ill'.''

He stressed that he had been nothing but polite and respectful to the barrister.

''I did not lose my temper or threaten Mr Lucie in any way - 100% definitely not,'' he told the court.

The contempt hearing also heard of another incident minutes later outside the courtroom.

Henry Mears showed Mr Lucie his bruised inner lip - which he claimed had been the result of being punched in the face over the Lapland case - put his arm around him and threatened to punch the barrister in the face.

Mr Lucie told the court:

''I said that should not have happened, and then he put his arm around me and said something like 'calm down, young man' and then he said something about punching me in the face.

''It was said in a jovial way, not very frightening, jokey type of way which I did not take seriously given the number of people that were there.

''It was probably over-familiar and he shouldn't have said those things and it didn't over concern me at that stage.''

The Mears brothers hit the headlines nearly three years ago when they set up a winter theme park on the Dorset-Hampshire border.

They advertised the attraction on its own website, in local newspapers and with flyers.

The eye-catching website offered a ''snow-covered village near Bournemouth'' with a ''magical tunnel of light'', ''beautiful snow-covered log cabins'', a ''bustling Christmas market'', ''wonderful ice rink'' and ''delicious hot and cold seasonal food''.

In bold, the website stated: ''The attention to detail of our theme park will truly wow you.''

People travelled from as far as west Wales, the Midlands and the south-east of England to visit, and paid up to £30 for entry.

Within days thousands of customers had complained to trading standards, with prosecutors telling jurors at the brothers' trial: ''The only feeling of 'wow' that many of the consumers felt was 'wow, what a con'.''

The brothers could have made more than £1 million from the 10,000 advance ticket sales.

After a three-month trial at Bristol Crown Court, the Mears were found guilty of eight charges of selling misleading advertising.

Both Henry and Victor were jailed for 13 months in March.

Henry Mears' contempt of court trial heard yesterday that they were both released from prison last month on home-tagged curfew.

Mears' conviction is the second contempt of court prosecution arising from the Lapland trial.

A juror was fined £250 after receiving a text message from her partner - who was sitting in the public gallery - containing the word ''guilty'', while sitting on the trial.