FORMER Army major Charles Ingram was today found guilty of assaulting a 13-year-old youth.

Ingram, 43, of Easterton, denied assaulting the youth, while he jogged through Urchfont during the village's Scarecrow Festival last April.

But magistrates, who heard the case at Salisbury Crown Court yesterday because of the amount of media interest, took 90 minutes to decide he was guilty.

Ingram was given an absolute discharge.

Under cross examination the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told Ingram's solicitor John Berry that he and his friends had fabricated part of his story.

He said after the verdict: "I just cannot belive they came to this verdict after the main prosecution witness lied. It means every yob in he country can get away with it.'' Giving evidence via a video link, the boy had told prosecutor Colin Meeke that he and four friends were walking along the High Street when he saw Ingram jogging towards him.

The boy said he was going to cough at Ingram as he went past, a joke in reference to Ingram's conviction for fraud on the TV quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The boy said he covered his mouth to cough, Ingram ran on a few yards, stopped then jogged back, grabbed him by his clothing and pushed him against the wall of a house.

But when questioned by Mr Berry, the boy agreed a lot of what he had said in the statement he had made to police and told Mr Meeke in court was a lie.

He agreed he had not covered his mouth but had coughed into Ingram's face, at less than an arm's length.

A girl witness, one of the group with the boy during the alleged incident, said she had heard the boy cough loudly at Ingram but had not seen the defendant grab the youth.

Ingram said he was jogging through the village when he passed a group of young people.

As he passed one of the group, the 13-year-old stepped forward.

Ingram told the court: "As I passed he deliberately coughed directly into my face. I could see his tongue in the shape of a U. I wanted to go back and have a word with him because I didn't want it to appear that what he had done was acceptable behaviour.

"I thought he was going to push me against the people behind me and possibly into the road and I grabbed his clothing to prevent him continuing his assault on me."

Ingram told the court that he and his wife, Diana, had suffered upwards of 60 assaults and incidents of anti social behaviour since their conviction of fraud in the TV quiz Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Mr Meeke asked Ingram: "Would you say you had a persecution mania?"

Ingram replied: "I don't know actually. Everyone knows who I am and where I live but I don't know who they are. This was the first time I knew who it was who had assaulted me and I wanted to speak to him.

"The things I have heard about this boy are absolutely shocking. This boy was not born to do these things to me. He learned them from his parents."