A FORMER PCSO has denied trying to frame a homeless drunk and said he made an honest mistake when he claimed he had been punched.

Thomas Rowland broke down in tears as he told a jury at Exeter Crown Court that he genuinely believed he had been assaulted by alcoholic homeless man Lawrence Best and was shocked when he saw CCTV of the incident.

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He said he saw Mr Best clench a fist in the moments leading up to the incident which led him to step back and get onto his police radio to call for back-up.

He said he only realised that Mr Best had raised his lift arm with the hand open when he saw it months later on CCTV.

The images, taken in the Crescent car park in Taunton, showed Mr Best, who was slumped on steps, sitting up and trying to grab Rowland, who stepped back.

Mr Best suffered a cut on his nose as he was arrested by three constables on the back steps of Tesco Express in Taunton's High Street.

He spent hours in custody at Bridgwater police station and was at risk of a six month jail sentence for assaulting a police officer until a CPS lawyer examined the CCTV.

Rowland told control room operators he had been punched in the abdomen. He later signed a witness statement saying the same thing and explained he was uninjured because he was wearing a stab vest.

The PCSO had been in the force for just over a year and was based at Taunton at the time of the incident in September 2016.

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He moved Mr Best on after finding him drunk near the Crown Court building but then found him drunk outside Tesco, where he had bought vodka and orange juice.

He took the alcohol off him, went inside the shop to pour it away, and then returned to warn Mr Best that he would be excluded from Taunton town centre for a day if he tried to buy any more.

It was at this point that CCTV showed Mr Best lunging at him from a half seated position in the incident which the PCSO reported as an assault.

Rowland, 25, from of Wellington, denies attempting to pervert the course of justice.

He told the jury he made his statement because he believed honestly that he had been punched. He said Mr Best had a clenched fist which was hidden from the CCTV camera by his body.

He said:"When I signed my statement I believed it all to be true. I knew the CCTV would be obtained and thought it would corroborate what I had seen.

"The first time I became aware of the discrepancy was months later when I was told I was being investigated by the professional standards people.

"My Federation representative showed me the clip and I saw it was not a fist but an open hand. I was shocked. I was completely adamant it was a fist until he showed me the CCTV.

"I could not believe it because in my head it had always been a fist. I did not intend to pervert the course of justice at all. I did not intend to mislead anyone. Until I saw the CCTV I thought what I had said was 100 per cent true."