Barber shaved word 'fool' on vulnerable man's head, court told
A barber shaved the word "fool" in inch-high letters on to the back of the head of a man with severe learning difficulties, a court heard today.
Michael Campbell, 35, who has no formal qualifications in hairdressing, had been working at Jam Cuts in Stapleton Road, Bristol, for just three weeks when Michael Ricketts walked into the salon on February 11.
The 49-year-old has communication difficulties and was described to the court as a "vulnerable adult" who mumbled his words and was difficult to understand.
Bristol Magistrates' Court heard that Mr Ricketts went into the barber's and asked to have a pattern shaved into his hair.
Unbeknown to Mr Ricketts, who is originally from Jamaica, Campbell allegedly shaved the word "fool" with a smiley face underneath, the prosecution claimed.
Giving evidence, Campbell said Mr Ricketts had asked for a pattern and he had shaved the word "cool" but it had been misinterpreted.
He added that he had not noticed Mr Ricketts had learning difficulties.
Campbell denies a charge of assault and one charge of failure to answer bail.
No photographs were taken of the haircut and the court is relying on live testimony.
The court heard evidence from three witnesses who said they were confident of the wording on the back of Mr Ricketts' head.
Jackie Lester, a senior care worker for Bristol City Council at a drop-in centre for people with learning difficulties, spotted the word when Mr Ricketts came in on February 14.
She said: "At the back Michael had the word 'fool' written on the back of his head, with a little line meant to be a smiley face. I was really shocked."
Ruth Tily, defending, suggested she may have misinterpreted the word, to which Ms Lester said: "You may suggest what you like, but I am very confident about what I saw on his head."
"I just couldn't believe it. I was stunned. I asked Michael where he got the haircut from and he said Stapleton Road," Ms Lester said.
"I realised it had been reported to the police, if not I would have reported it to the police as he is a vulnerable adult."
The court also heard from a minister at the Spirit of Life church that Mr Ricketts attended with his family, as well as a member of the church, who both said it was clear what had been shaved on to Mr Ricketts' head.
Vincent Visser said Mr Ricketts had been in "happy spirits" about his haircut until they saw the word "fool" clearly written in capital letters.
When Mr Ricketts' mother was told of the haircut, her face was described to have "changed" and "her head dropped".
Campbell, who had previously worked as a support worker, told the court there had been no discussion about the kind of pattern Mr Ricketts wanted and he went "straight to it".
The barbers at Jam Cuts were self-employed and rented the chairs. Campbell said there were no supervisors.
Prosecuting, Nick Evans asked if he noticed anything different about Mr Ricketts, and he said "no". Asked if he was aware he had learning difficulties, he said: "He didn't look that way to me."
"I trimmed the sides, left some on top and put the pattern in the back, which was "cool" with a smiley face," Campbell said.
Following the 20-minute haircut, Campbell said he showed the design to Mr Ricketts using mirrors and he had seemed happy and left the shop.
Mr Evans put it to Campbell, who continues to work at Jam Cuts, he did something he thought would be "amusing", that he "took advantage of a vulnerable man by seeking to demean him in this spiteful way".
Campbell, from Hartcliffe, Bristol, strenuously denied the suggestion, adding: "I didn't see Mr Ricketts as a person with learning difficulties."