A Brighton demonstrator charged with threatening an MP after calling him a coward has been cleared.

Alex Cline, 25, was accused of “wanting to cause trouble”, “shouting abuse and being intimidating” when a hostile group hounded Hove MP Mike Weatherley’s entourage from the University of Sussex campus on November 14 last year.

During the trial at Brighton Magistrates’ Court Harry McDonald, prosecuting, said Mr Cline pursued a course of “aggressive action” against the MP.

But the former University of Sussex student said he simply wanted to engage in a debate about squatting.

The court heard Mr Cline was treated with “great suspicion” by staff of Hove MP Mike Weatherley before the debate on new anti-squatting laws..

The court heard a protester threw a punch at the Tory MP causing him to back out of the talk. A crowd of chanting protesters pursued the MP’s staff through campus and when Mr Cline came across the beleaguered group he was shoved by staffer Michael Ireland.

The MP’s staff then “holed up” in the Silverstone building and waited for a police escort off of the campus.

Mr Cline, of North Street, Brighton, said he was concerned friends might be arrested and stood near the police van. He was accused of intimidating behaviour by shouting and banging on the van.

He denied the claim, saying he had been shoved by the surging crowd. 

Mr Cline was arrested three weeks later. He admitted saying: “You’re a coward Mr Weatherley. If you call people criminals they will act like criminals.”

But a judge at Brighton Magistrates’ Court cleared him of causing harassment, alarm or distress by threatening, abusive, insulting words, behaviour or disorderly behaviour.

Speaking outside court Mr Cline said: “I was really surprised by the vigour the prosecution pursued this case.

“I think it was a vindictive prosecution aimed at intimidating opponents of Conservative policies on housing.

“Some members of staff in particular showed personal interest in defaming me.”

After the case Mr Weatherley said: “As a witness, I was asked to describe how my staff and I were physically attacked by a mob of protesters.

“I’m not fully aware why the Crown Prosecution Service chose to prosecute only Alex Cline but I am glad that a conclusion has now been reached.”