A “FALL from grace” for a struck-off dentist took another downward spiral when he began a jail sentence last night.
Leslie Smith once had 12 dental practices and was also well known as a flamboyant businessman who established a country pub, trout farm and even an airfield at Knitsley, on the outskirts of Consett, County Durham.
But a Crown Court judge yesterday jailed the 56-year-old for eight months after he drunkenly brandished an eight-inch kitchen knife in the pub which he created and later sold – The Old Mill – and threatened an 84-year-old customer.
Durham Crown Court was told terrified customers and staff fled from the pub on the evening of June 14 this year, leaving Smith inside alone.
Police surrounded the building – a 16th century converted mill house – and Smith surrendered.
He admitted possessing an offensive weapon at an earlier hearing at magistrates court, and was remanded on bail to Crown Court for sentencing yesterday. Graham O’Sullivan, prosecuting, said Smith had drunk a bottle of wine at the home of his estranged wife in Knitsley before deciding to go to the Old Mill to try to solve a dispute with a neighbour at about 10pm.
He added: “He appeared to be agitated about a land deal and was ranting about a farmer. An 84-year-old customer, Noble Storey, was at the bar and he defended the man. Smith took umbrage at this and offered to fight him outside. “The licensee had to place himself between the pair of them.” Mr O’Sullivan said that Smith was frightening customers and staff by shouting: “I am going to kill them. They don’t mess with Les Smith, I am the legend.”
He then began brandishing the knife, causing customers and staff to flee the premises.
The court was told Smith had a previous conviction for causing criminal damage and making threats to a couple in Oban, Scotland, in 2008 when he told them: “I am Les Smith, I am a machine. You don’t mess with me.”
When police arrived to arrest him he told them: “You are all thick. At least when I get to court I’ll get some intelligent conversation.”
Judge Christopher Prince described Smith as “an intelligent man who had attended Durham Johnston School before gaining a degree in dentistry at Newcastle University.”
He said Smith was later dismissed for professional misconduct, was now separated from his wife and was living in Thailand.
Sentencing him to eight months in prison – of which he will serve four in custody – the judge told him: “You are a well educated man who has had a very great fall from grace.”