Chainsaw wielding drunk’s ‘preposterous’ excuse slammed by judge

A drunk man who argued with his friends then went home and returned with a chainsaw was today spared jail.

Gintautas Vitkus spent the night of Saturday, September 14 last year drinking at a house in Halcombe Road, West Derby.

Liverpool Crown Court heard a row broke out and Vitkus stormed off – leaving behind his wallet and mobile phone.

But police received an anonymous phone call at around 6am, reporting there was a man outside with a chainsaw.

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Shocking CCTV footage showed 31-year-old Vitkus get out of his car and repeatedly try to start the power tool.

And despite hearing the Lithuanian national's "preposterous" excuse, a top judge today said he clearly intended to "cause fear of serious violence".

Nick Cockrell, prosecuting, said the unknown caller explained the man had left the address after a "disagreement".

Vitkus had already gone by the time officers arrived and the two occupants of the house refused to make statements.

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They told police Vitkus, of Sceptre Road, Croxteth, had been drinking into the early hours of Sunday, September 15.

Mr Cockrell said: "They perhaps indicated he had drunk more than he accepted in his police interview.

"But it appears he had been at the address with people he knew, there had been a dispute that caused him to leave the premises, leaving his phone and wallet at the address, and that was what prompted him to return to the address with the chainsaw that was in his vehicle."

Vitkus was arrested when he went to Kirkby Police Station and asked about his belongings at 8.50pm that same day.

When interviewed by police, he said: "But I didn't start it."

Mr Cockrell said the Crown couldn't say whether that claim related to him not starting the chainsaw, or the dispute.

He said: "His admission in interview was he was there to try and apply pressure so he could retrieve his items."

Vitkus admitted being at the scene and having "a few drinks", then leaving after an argument, but claimed when he returned he didn't try to start the tool.

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Mr Cockrell said the CCTV footage showed he in fact made repeated attempts to start the chainsaw.

Vitkus was originally charged with affray, which he denied, and was set to stand trial in June.

This was vacated because of the coronavirus crisis and he admitted the lesser offence of threatening behaviour ahead of a relisted trial.

The court heard he had a small number of previous convictions, but none relevant to this case.

Judge Thomas Teague, QC, asked whether Vitkus still maintained a "preposterous explanation" given to the author of a pre-sentence report, which he said was "completely inconsistent" with his guilty plea.

The judge said: "He is suggesting – as I understand it – that the reason he took the chainsaw out was to offer it as part payment on a loan he owed, which does raise the question, why was it necessary to make repeated attempts to start it?"

Judge Teague said this was "absurd", adding: "I'm minded to dismiss it out of hand, as I am entitled to do."

Matthew O'Neill, defending, said Vitkus now accepted the full facts of the prosecution case.

He said: "The guilty plea is on a full facts basis and as per his police interview, he went round to put pressure on his friend to return his belongings."

The lawyer said Vitkus had run his own cleaning business for 12 months, earning around £1,700 per month before tax.

However, Mr O'Neill said "work has dried up" during the pandemic and that his client had very little disposable income.

Gintautas Vitkus walked free from court today

Judge Teague said Vitkus made "repeated attempts" to start the chainsaw.

He told him: "Your intention was clearly to cause fear and to intimidate."

Judge Teague added: "I'm glad to note from what Mr O'Neill has told me that you're not now putting the ridiculous explanation that you had taken the chainsaw to the address to offer it as part payment for a loan – if you hadn't withdrawn that explanation, I would have rejected it out of hand anyway."

The judge said Vitkus' culpability was high, adding: "Your intention in my view was to cause fear of serious violence and in any view you produced a weapon – that chainsaw.

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"One could not blame either of the people in that house for having a real fear."

However, he said in terms of the actual harm caused, neither victim had been willing to assist the prosecution, and while he could infer they must have been "very afraid", they were inside the house and Vitkus didn't appear to have made any determined attempt to enter the property.

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He handed him a 12-month community order, six-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and 120 hours of unpaid work.