Two bailiffs faced a ‘terrifying’ 25-minute ordeal after a man brandished an axe and a chainsaw at them when they came to his home to enforce payment of £16,000 unpaid council tax.
A shocked court watched bodyworn video of the whole incident which showed defendant Johnathon Hepton’s wife screaming at him to stop as he swung an axe through a door when the bailiffs got into his house.
Hepton - a volunteer with the Brownies and Rainbows - was charged with making threats to kill and affray when he appeared at Northampton Crown Court last Friday.
The bailiffs - two Northampton brothers from a private enforcement firm - turned up at Hepton’s door in Watling Street in the leafy village of Norton, near Daventry, on January 8 last year.
Their video showed them asking Hepton, 58, how he was going to repay the Daventry District Council debt, and him replying: “No chance. Not at this time of night.”
One of the men managed to get inside the house and blocked the door but Hepton quickly picked up an axe and swung ut through the gap in the door, managing to strike one of the victims on the arm with it, drawing blood.
The video went on to show the bailiff making a frantic phonecall to police from inside the property while his brother and Hepton were still outside.
His terrified wife could be heard screaming: “Stop it, stop it. John, please calm down. You’re scaring me. Stop it. Why are you doing this to him?”
Eventually his wife, wearing a dressing gown, managed to take the axe, at which point the bailiff went into the utility room to seek refuge and a chainsaw could be heard starting up outside the property.
Hepton went to the utility room window and could be heard, brandishing his chainsaw, saying: “If the police come you’ll be the first to get it. I’m going to slice you up.”
The police then arrived and Hepton was arrested.
Prosecuting, Jonathan Dunn, said that Hepton told police that he had been concerned that the bailiff was inside with his wife but added that Hepton had clearly known why the enforcers were there.
A victim impact statement read to the court by one of the bailiffs said that he hasn’t been comfortable going into people’s houses since the incident but that he has to as part of his job.
His job is commission-based so he has lost out on money because of the after-effects.
He even had to return to Hepton’s property again following the incident to enforce the debt.
The court heard how Hepton had only one previous conviction, for drink driving in May 2018 four months after the incident in question, and had pleaded guilty to the latest charges at the earliest opportunity.
He had now taken his finances in hand and was beginning to pay back the debt.
Mitigating, Arthur Kendrick, said that Hepton acknowledged the fact his behaviour was ‘unacceptable’ and that he may have been ‘acting in a state of some panic’.
Mr Kendrick said that his client volunteered with local Brownies and Rainbows groups and had run horesriding trips for the disabled, adding: “He’s been a positive influence.
“If he were to get a custodial sentence he would lose his job and his wife lose the family home and their dogs and horses.”
Her Honour Judge Rebecca Crane said: “This must have been a truly terrifying incident.
“You were banging at the door and broke the lock and you had an axe in your hand.”
“Given your previous good character there’s a realistic prospect of rehabilitation.”
Judge Crane added that Hepton could have been facing between one and four years in prison.
Sentencing Hepton to two, 24-month sentences to run consecutively, Judge Crane said she would suspend the sentences for 18 months meaning that Hepton would not go to jail but would be facing prison if he committed another offence in the next year-and-a-half.
He was also ordered to complete 20 days of rehabilitation and 160 hours of community work. He was also ordered to pay one of the victims £650 in compensation.