Campaigners call on Priti Patel to intervene in case of mechanic serving 38 months in jail for attempted citizen’s arrest that ended in death of hammer-wielding man

  • Petition demands Home Secretary Priti Patel intervene in case of Benjamin Hunt
  • Hunt, 32, is serving a 38-month prison sentence after admitting manslaughter
  • He had attempted to make citizen’s arrest of 25-year-old Christopher Walters
  • Mr Walters, who had damaged car with hammer, died at Royal Stoke Uni Hospital

Hundreds of campaigners are calling for the immediate release of a mechanic jailed over the death of a hammer-wielding vandal during an attempted citizen’s arrest.

The petition has demanded that Home Secretary Priti Patel intervene in the case of Benjamin Hunt, 32, who is currently serving a 38-month prison sentence.

The father-of-two had chased Christopher Walters, 25, after he had damaged a car with a sledgehammer in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, in May 2019.

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

Staffordshire Police took 19 minutes to attend and Mr Walters was later pronounced dead at the Royal Stoke University Hospital. 

Hunt was locked up last month after admitting to manslaughter during the citizen’s arrest gone wrong.

His work colleague Jonathan Hassall, 51, who was also involved in the incident, took his own life just days before he was due to go on trial for manslaughter.  

Campaigners believe Hunt should not have been jailed after he put the safety of the public before his own and are now calling for his release. 


The petition has demanded that Home Secretary Priti Patel intervene in the case of Benjamin Hunt, 32, (left) who is currently serving a 38-month prison sentence after admitting to the manslaughter of 25-year-old Christopher Walters (right)

The Free Benjamin Hunt petition has so far attracted more than 900 signatures.

Organiser Tony Dyer has said: ‘Ben Hunt is a mild-mannered, hardworking, young family man who is a pillar of society.

‘He has been imprisoned for 38 months for making an honest mistake which any other law-abiding citizen could have made.

‘He was working at the garage when Christopher Walters, who seemed to be under the influence of drugs, began to smash the windows of a car parked outside with a sledgehammer.

Stafford Crown Court last month heard how Mr Walters was detained in Wood Street, Longton, (pictured) and he was later pronounced dead at the Royal Stoke University Hospital

What does the law say about carrying out a citizen’s arrest in UK?

A citizen’s arrest is an arrest by an individual who is not a police officer or other sworn law enforcement official.

The law states anyone can perform a citizen’s arrest on somebody who is committing an indictable offence.

It also states anybody can arrest a person if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that the person is committing an indictable offence.

An indictable offence can land a person in Crown Court so it has to be a serious crime such as burglary or a violent offence.

But it may not be apparent whether the suspect’s behaviour amounts to an indictable offence so the situation needs to be assessed carefully.

Anyone carrying out an arrest can only use reasonable force when making it. 

The law states a citizen’s arrest can be carried out to the prevent the person: 

  • Causing physical injury to themself or any other person
  • Suffering physical injury
  • Causing loss of or damage to property 
  • Making off before a constable can assume responsibility for them 

‘When challenged by Ben Hunt and Jonathan Hassall, Mr Walters ran away still brandishing the sledgehammer towards a school packed with young children. 

‘Fearful for the safety of the children Hunt and Hassall gave chase.

‘They tackled Mr Walters to the ground, disarmed him, and attempted to hold him for the police who were called by a bystander. 

‘Hunt held him round the neck and Jonathan Hassall held his legs as he was kicking out.’

Stafford Crown Court last month heard how Mr Walters was detained in Wood Street, Longton.

But Staffordshire Police took 19 minutes to attend and he was later pronounced dead at the Royal Stoke University Hospital.

The petition added: ‘Ben Hunt is a motor mechanic with no medical knowledge and could not have foreseen such a horrific end to his disarming and trying to restrain a man displaying unlawful and violent behaviour.

‘Hunt is the victim of a tragic accident caused by an unfortunate chain of events initiated by the unlawful actions of Mr Walters and exacerbated by the unreasonable length of time taken by the police to respond to the 999 call.

‘Hunt had the prosecution case hanging over his head for almost two years. 

‘He also had the trauma of finding the body of Jonathan Hassall.

‘I submit that a jail sentence of 38 months on top of the mental trauma that Hunt has already suffered is a travesty of justice and that compassion rather than punishment would have best served in this instance.

‘I believe that there but for the grace of God go I and that many law-abiding citizens could have found themselves in a like situation.

‘If you agree with me please add your signature to the petition for his release.’

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