A magistrate was attacked by a member of the public in the middle of a court hearing.

Shocked eye witnesses described how the man “flew at” the magistrate at Brighton Magistrates’ Court at midday yesterday.

A woman was in the dock being questioned over alleged council tax arrears when the incident happened.

Norman Kelly, who was outside courtroom eight at the time of the incident, described how the drama unfolded.

The 53-year-old construction worker from Bevendean, Brighton, said: “I was standing outside the court when suddenly people rushed out.

“Someone yelled, ‘The magistrate has just been attacked’.

“I understood the man flew at the magistrate. He had maybe been between 8ft and 10ft away from him before then and he apparently just launched at him. The woman who was in the dock came out of court in hysterics but the man who people said attacked the magistrate did not come out.”

Mr Kelly, who was at court supporting a friend, had been sitting in the public gallery moments earlier.

He said the case was about council tax non-payment.

He claimed the man accused of attacking the magistrate – who was chairing a bench of three – was sitting with the accused woman.

He said: “From my perspective it looked as though she had some difficulties with hearing and he was helping her. He was sitting next to her but he was told not to speak and it kicked off.”

It is believed the magistrate was not seriously injured in the incident.

A Sussex Police spokesman said: “A 50-year-old man from Brighton was arrested on suspicion of battery on Thursday after he allegedly attacked a magistrate and security staff at Brighton Magistrates’ Court.

“Police were called to court room eight in Edward Street at 12.08pm.”

Yesterday the spokesman confirmed the man was in custody in Brighton.

A Magistrates’ Association spokeswoman said: “Fortunately, attacks of this kind are very, very rare. However, courts are public buildings.”

The court manager at Brighton Magistrates’ Court declined to comment.