Builder hammered by angry client

Tabulam man Brian Baker outside the Lismore Courthouse. He is accused of assaulting his house builder, Ross Pankhurst.
Tabulam man Brian Baker outside the Lismore Courthouse. He is accused of assaulting his house builder, Ross Pankhurst. Ross Irby

BALLINA-based home builder Ross Pankhurst accused an unhappy client of assaulting him in front of building and insurance inspectors.

He had his case stalled after a relieving Lismore Local Court magistrate from Tamworth revealed a relative had also used the builder.

Magistrate Roger Prowse was an hour into hearing the assault case against Brian Baker, of Tabulam, when he took a break to make a phone call.

On his return to the bench, Mr Prowse said his mother-in-law had confirmed the magistrate’s sister-in-law had her home built by Mr Pankhurst.

Mr Prowse immediately disqualified himself from hearing the case.

Baker, 60, from Paddys Flat Road, is pleading not guilty to assaulting Mr Pankhurst on January 14 last year at Tabulam during a dispute with Mr Pankhurst over the removal of building materials from a building site.

During the proceedings, Mr Pankhurst said there was animosity over the building of the three-bedroom house and he was attempting to load his work ute with unused materials from the site when Baker unhooked a sling off a loader.

“I went and got it back from him and put it back on. He took it off again,” Mr Pankhurst said.

“I had my head down putting it back on the hook when I was struck on the side of the head. I got quite a large hit.”

Mr Pankhurst said the hit was witnessed by his son, an officer from Fair Trading and an insurance assessor.

He said he did nothing to provoke the assault.

During cross-examination by lawyer Eoin Johnston for Baker, Mr Pankhurst agreed there had been issues with the house and his company, Ballina Building Centre, was rectifying things.

He said it was true there was a document (from him) terminating his building services.

“I went there with an open mind as Fair Trading and the insurance assessors were there,” he said.

Mr Pankhurst said the material he was trying to remove was timber stored on site that had deteriorated and he was going to change it over.

“I suggest to you that you shoulder-charged Mr Baker prior to him hitting you,” Mr Johnston said.

“Absolutely not,” replied Mr Pankhurst.

“You crash-tackled Mr Baker and made heavy contact on his chest with your shoulder?” Mr Johnston also put to him.

“Absolutely not true,” replied Mr Pankhurst.

After disqualifying himself, Mr Prowse adjo-urned the case to be heard on February 12 by a new magistrate.

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