A MOTHER and daughter assaulted another woman outside Pets at Home following an argument over social distancing, a court has found.

Mary Ann Farley, 42, and Lucy Farley, 19, both of The Oaks, Newbury, attacked the woman outside the popular animal store in Newbury in what was described as an act of “excessive self-defence.”

The “2-on-1” attack left the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, with soreness and swelling on her head.

Both Mary Ann and Lucy Farley said they were acting in self-defence after it was claimed the woman initially ‘elbow barged’ the mother in the ribs.

The incident occurred following an argument at Pets at Home in December 2020, when the complainant asked Mary-Ann Farley and her family to ‘step back’ to comply with social distancing.

The woman said she asked this as she was being “cautious” following reports of a new coronavirus variant that was “more transmissible.”

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She claimed she made this request politely, but Mary-Ann Farley, who responded by telling her they were already on a marked socially-distanced spot in the store, did so in an “abrupt and defensive” manner, according to the woman.

Both Farleys would later say in court that the woman asked them to move back in what was an “aggressive” tone.

A court heard how a shopping assistant asked the Farleys if they were okay following the argument.

Reading Magistrates Court

Reading Magistrates' Court

The woman then returned to her car to put away her purchases when the Farleys approached her at the side of her vehicle.

Defending, Steve Molloy showed the court CCTV footage of the incident and claimed the woman swung round as the Farleys approached and “elbow barged” Mary-Ann.

The woman denied she barged Mary-Ann Farley with her elbow, and an instead told the court she was trying to close her car door.

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This led to an altercation between the woman and Mary-Ann Farley, with the latter said to have pulled the woman’s hair and pushed her head back.

The woman said: “[Mary-Ann Farley] said something about ‘finishing this’. I went to close the door with my right hand and [Mary-Ann] got right up in my face and screamed at the top of her voice and I shouted back to tell her to stop.

“It was such a shock mentally and physically. It was such a vicious attack.”

The woman said she came away from the incident with grazing on her hands, soreness around her head, a ‘whiplash’-type pain to her back and pain in her right and left arms.

Reflecting on the impact the incident had on her, she said: “I question whether I should protect myself from virus and other people if they are too close. I question whether I should do the right thing for the right reason.”

Defending, Steve Molloy suggested it was the woman who instigated the altercation with an “elbow barge” because she had “lost her temper”-- something the woman denied.

Taking her turn in the dock, Mary-Ann Farley said she was acting in self-defence during the incident and was merely defending herself and her daughter.

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She claimed the woman was “aggressive” towards her in Pets at Home and approached her outside to ask what the problem was.

At the car, she alleged the woman’s ‘elbow barge’ bruised her, and she responded to this out of “fear”.

“I was just defending myself and my daughter”, she said.

Asked by prosecutor Lucy Eastwood why she did not simply walk past the woman instead of approaching her following the argument in pets at home, Mary-Ann Farley said: “I really wish I had left it.

“I wanted to have an adult conversation to discuss it.”

But Ms Eastwood suggested Ms Farley was not acting in self-defence, and alleged that the incident was “completely unprovoked”.

“You attacker her quite viciously and your daughter joined in”.

Lucy Farley, 19, then took to the dock to give her account of the incident.

She said she saw the woman “barge her mum” and her “first thought was to help her.”

“It was self-defence”, she argued.

Summing up, prosecutor Ms Eastwood said there was “no elbow barge” from the woman and this was a “violent” “2-on-1” attack from the Farleys.

Mr Molloy dismissed this suggestion, however, telling the court the Farleys had “never been in trouble” before in their lives and this was a case of “self-defence.”

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Following a 25-minute deliberation, the Judge presiding over the case returned with a guilty verdict for both Mary-Ann and Lucy Farley, who had previously pleaded not guilty to separate charges of assault by beating.

The Judge said: “We do find that [the woman] pushed Mary-Ann by the car. Mary-Ann may have thought she was going to be further attacked, but we need to consider whether their response was reasonable.

“We have considered all the evidence and we are sure that the defendants used more than reasonable force in this situation and we do not find the defendants acted in self-defence. We find them both guilty.”

The judge then added: “We think this is a case of excessive self-defence. It went too far.”

Sentencing, the judge handed out fines of £100 to both Mary-Ann and Lucy Farley, as well as an order to pay costs of £775 between them, and a victim surcharge of £22 each.

The trial took place at Reading Magistrates Court on Friday, May 14.

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