A 35-year-old man who refers to himself as the ‘Donny Klown’ has been found guilty of public order offences after he was found to have deliberately scared two healthcare assistants while wearing a 'horror' mask.
During a six hour trial at Doncaster Magistrates’ Court today, the court heard how on the evening of April 22 this year Richard Vallance, of Argyle Avenue, Intake approached and caused ‘alarm and distress’ to two female healthcare assistants on their way to work at Doncaster Royal Infirmary (DRI) in two separate incidents.
The first incident occurred at around 6.50pm as Sonica Kaur exited her car and began to walk along Armthorpe Road.
As Ms Kaur came towards Gate 5 of the hospital she was approached by Vallance.
She said: “I could see this person wearing a white and red Halloween mask. He was wearing a hoodie and had the hood over his head. I became anxious and put my phone in my hand and held my bag tightly and tried to carry on forwards.
"He came very close to me and he raised his arms like he was going to grab me or attack me. I stepped out of the way. I was scared, very scared, wondering what he could have done to me if I was anywhere other than a main road.”
Minutes after the incident with Ms Kaur, Vallance approached another healthcare assistant, Rebecca Pettigrew as she walked past Gate 5 of the hospital on her way to start a 7pm shift.
Ms Pettigrew told the court: “I saw him about 10 feet in front of me. As I stepped right he mirrored me. I started to feel cornered. His arms were out and he was growling as though he was baring his teeth, as though he was going to get me.”
In order to escape Vallance, Ms Pettigrew said she then stepped on to the cycle path, onto the road and squeezed in between two cars before walking towards DRI at a fast pace.
Both Ms Pettigrew and Ms Kaur reported the incidents to police shortly afterwards.
The court also heard that around 15 minutes before approaching Ms Kaur, Vallance went into the hospital’s Accident and Emergency department wearing his Halloween mask. He was asked to take the mask off by security personnel, and after gesturing at the mask a number of times, he left as requested.
Earlier on that day at around 7.30am, Vallance called South Yorkshire Police and informed them he was intending to carry out a protest in the town centre as Donny Klown, which he told the call operator was his alter-ego.
A recording of the phone call was played in court, during which Vallance said: "I'm simply going to walk from the Beaumont. down the High Street and up to St George's Church in the mask. I think I might, yes I will, go into The Frenchgate dressed in the mask. It's not illegal to protest wearing a clown mask."
During the course of the phone call, which was played in court, Vallance also reported an incident in which he had been accused of being a paedophile by a group of school children while he was at the bus station. He said the children had also waited outside his house and threatened his family.
While giving evidence, Vallance said he believed the group of around 15 children who he said had been 'tormenting' him were pupils at Danum Academy.
Around two hours after making the phone call to police Vallance walked up towards the grounds of Danum Academy at around 9.30am, also based in Armthorpe Road, wearing a Halloween mask, as well as a green high-visibility jacket.
Supply teacher, Elaine Jacques, told the court how as Vallance approached around 40 year seven pupils were on the school field taking part in a lesson she was giving.
Ms Jacques, who admits to having a phobia of clowns, said: “He came about 10 feet away from the railings, and he was saying in a scary voice ‘I am Donny Klown, I’m going to get you, you and you’ and was pointing at children at random as he said it.
"The children became quite agitated, and four or five were very frightened. I was also quite scared."
This incident was also reported to police.
Vallance denied saying anything to the children, but admits walking around 30 metres away from the school fence dressed in the Halloween mask and high-visibility jacket, which he later put on in court under cross-examination as requested by prosecutor Justin Ballas.
While giving evidence, Vallance denied intending to scare anyone and said he was intending to carry out what he described both as a ‘silent protest' and a ‘publicity stunt’ for a number of reasons including issues he says he had with South Yorkshire Police the Doncaster Free Press and in order to clear his name as well as raise money for charities supporting facial disfigurement.
Commenting on his costume of a Halloween mask and a green high-visibility jacket, which he modeled for the court as requested by prosecutor Justin Ballas under cross-examination, he said: "I tried my best to make it into a clown. The paint I put on must have come off."
When asked by his defense solicitor, Tim Williamson whether he thought his costume resembled the traditional dress of a clown, he added: "I think I should have dressed as Ronald McDonald or not done it at all."
The court was told how on the following day of April 23, Vallance was arrested by police and had his house searched, during which the Halloween mask and the rest of his costume was recovered.
He was later charged with three counts of the same public order offence relating to the incident outside Danum Academy and the later two outside DRI. The charge relates to causing harassment, alarm or distress to an individual or group.
In his closing remarks, prosecutor Mr Ballas said he believed Vallance had intended to be a 'shock jock'.
He added: "You knew exactly what you were up to.
"You wanted to scare people wearing that hideous 'horror mask'.
"You caused those two women walking alone a great deal of alarm and distress."
District Judge Alan Jones found Vallance guilty of the two public order offences relating to the incidents outside Doncaster Royal Infirmary and not guilty of the charge relating to Danum Academy.
Judge Jones said he could not find Vallance guilty of the public order offence relating to the incident Danum Academy because while he believed the prosecution's accounts of events at the school, he said he did not believe there was sufficient evidence that the incident was 'pre-meditated'.
Vallance is due to be sentenced at Doncaster Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, September 27.
He has been released on unconditional bail until his next court appearance, and is prohibited from wearing a mask, face paints or approaching DRI and Danum Academy during that time.