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Farmer cleared of threatening rock stars

PUBLISHED: 05:15 28 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:22 24 February 2010

A FARMER appeared in court over claims that he brandished a loaded shotgun in the presence of two members of dance band The Prodigy.

Frontman Keith Flint, 33, and band leader Liam Howlett, 31, were on land in Great Dunmow, Essex, when there was an incident involving farmer John Kirby, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.

A FARMER appeared in court over claims that he brandished a loaded shotgun in the presence of two members of dance band The Prodigy.

Frontman Keith Flint, 33, and band leader Liam Howlett, 31, were on land in Great Dunmow, Essex, when there was an incident involving farmer John Kirby, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.

Kirby, who pleaded not guilty to possessing a 16-bore shotgun with intent to cause fear of violence, was bound over to keep the peace after yesterday's hearing.

John Butcher, prosecuting, said: "This allegation arose when Mr Kirby brandished a loaded shotgun on his land which he farmed, in circumstances where the prosecution says the witnesses Howlett and Flint were alleged to have been frightened."

He said no evidence was being offered against Kirby over the incident which took place in April last year.

Recorder John Akast formally entered a verdict of not guilty and bound over the 62-year-old to keep the peace for six months in the sum of £500.

Mr Butcher said Howlett, who is married to former All Saints star Natalie Appleton, owns a house next to Kirby's land.

In police interview Kirby, from Little Dunmow, admitted he had the loaded gun and that his actions had been "singularly inappropriate", said Mr Butcher.

The court was told his shotguns had been seized.

Neither stars were in court.

Mark Harris, defending, said Flint made a statement saying he did not want the case to be pursued, and that Howlett, referred to as Anthony during the proceedings, agreed.

Mr Harris said: "Mr Kirby being an honest and upstanding man that he is has acknowledged from an early stage that what passed between the parties on his field... his own behaviour, might not have measured up to his own very high standards."

He said Kirby has been in a state of "disquiet and worry" about the case, and at one point had expected it to be dropped.

Kirby still denied the charge, he said.

Peter Binning, representing the pop stars, said after the hearing: "They are very pleased because the right decision has been made, and they would like to thank the Crown Prosecution Service and everyone else concerned for the way it has been conducted.

"There is no doubt they can live peacefully now with their neighbour."

Mr Kirby said after the hearing he hoped to meet the two men again in better circumstances.

Flint, renowned for his spikey hair, tattoos, body piercings and wild stage persona, also has a home near Great Dunmow.

The Prodigy is the brainchild of classically trained pianist and acid house DJ Liam Howlett, who met members Keith Flint and Leeroy Thornhill and MC Maxim Reality on London's club scene in the early 1990s.

The Prodigy rose to fame in the 1990s with chart-topping hits including Firestarter and Smack My Bitch Up.


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