WATCH: Elderly neighbours fight over social distancing
TWO elderly neighbours came to blows in a luxury Main Beach tower after a row over social distancing laws.
But the Southport Magistrates Court on Friday cleared 77-year-old Brian Powell of any guilt, finding he was protecting his wife who had pneumonia in both lungs.
Cheryl Powell had been told she would die if she contracted coronavirus.
The scuffle started when Mr Powell tried to stop his 75-year-old neighbour William Clements getting in the lift at De Ville, Main Beach about 8.45am on June 19 last year.
Mr Powell pleaded not guilty to a single charge of assault of a person over 60.
Magistrate Grace Kahlert upheld Mr Powell's version of events, saying he had been provoked and was defending Mrs Powell.
Outside of court, Mr Powell's lawyer Campbell MacCallum, of Moloney MacCallum Lawyers, said it was "a charge that should have never been brought".
"It was one of those cases where prosecution exercised their discretion disgracefully by continuing to prosecute the matter," he said.
At the time of the incident Mr Powell was taking Mrs Powell to the doctor, the court was told.
Mr Clement ignored Mr Powell's attempts and instead pushed into the lift, pushing Mr Powell backwards.
"(Mr Clements) knocked me back and I thought he was going to knock my wife over," Mr Powell said.
"I was furious at him - he could have killed my wife.
"He was doing everything her doctors told us to avoid."
Mr Powell then grabbed Mr Clements by the neck and pushed him into the wall.
CCTV of the incident played to the court showed Mr and Mrs Powell in the lift when Mr Clements tried to get on the eighth floor.
The footage showed Mr Powell trying to block Mr Clements and at one stage puts an arm out to push him backwards.
Mr Clements rushed into the lift, pushing Mr Powell backwards.
Mr Powell told the court he was "shoulder charged". Mr Clements said he tripped.
The footage then shows Mr Powell grabbing Mr Clements by the neck and pushing him into the lift wall.
In the footage he lets go, and the lift stops at the floor below.
The three remain in the lift when two more people get in and the elevator continues to the basement level when they all get out.
The court was told the lift was about 1.3m by about 1.6m
Mr Clements told the court that Mr Powell had said "you are not coming in here, you prick".
He also told the court he was not aware of social distancing measures despite the nationwide lockdown in March.
Mr Powell said he had only told him not to come in as his wife was sick.
Magistrate Kahlert said she found Mr Clements was an unreliable witness who exaggerated what happened in the lift.
Mr Clements is the secretary on the body corporate committee.
Mr Powell said Mr Clements would have known about his wife's illness because he had an ongoing dispute with the body corporate over Mrs Powell's illness.
The court was told Mr Powell and Mr Clements became friends about a decade ago when they met at the Southport Yacht Club until a falling out about two years ago relating to issues with the body corporate.
Since the incident Mr Powell has had a stroke, leaving him with difficulties to hear and speak.
Originally published as WATCH: Elderly neighbours fight over social distancing