A HOUSEHOLDER who spat in the face of one policeman and headbutted another has been cleared by top judges because the officers had no right to enter his Oxford home.

High Court judge Mr Justice Collins expressed sympathy for the officers involved in the incident, saying that, in one sense, they were "damned if they did, and damned if they didn't".

But Parliament had laid down that officers may only enter a home by force and without consent if they suspect an imminent threat to "life or limb", or serious damage to property.

And that was not the case when they entered Shaheed Syed's home at (33) Hurst Street, Cowley, after receiving reports of a disturbance there on January 24 last year.

Oxford Magistrates had, in April last year, convicted Mr Syed of two counts of assaulting a police officer in the execution of his duty, but the High Court today cleared his name.

Mr Justice Collins said three officers attended Mr Syed's home after being notified of a noisy dispute there by a member of the public. When Mr Syed came to the door, the officers said he was "evasive" and reluctant to let them in.

After Mr Syed told them he had had a row with his brother, the officers informed him that they had power to enter the property, without a warrant, to confirm the "welfare" of the occupants.

But the judge said Mr Syed's response was to spit in one officer's face and headbutt another.

Overturning his convictions yesterday, Mr Justice Collins said that, by the time the officers arrived at the address, all was quiet and there was "no sign of anything untoward". There was no indication of any damage to property or that occupants had suffered any physical injury.

He said Parliament had laid down that police officers may only enter a property by force and without consent if "something serious" was suspected.

"Concern for welfare is not sufficient to justify entry - it is altogether too low a test", he told the court.

The judge added: "I appreciate and have some sympathy for the problems faced by police officers in such situations. In a sense they are damned if they do, and damned if they don't.

"But it is important to bear in mind the high threshhold set by Parliament because it is a serious matter for a householder to have his home entered by police officers by force and without consent."

The charges faced by Mr Syed were of assaulting a police officer "in the exercise of his duty", and the judge concluded: "In my view, this conviction cannot stand".

Mr Justice Silber agreed, saying that the words used by Parliament were "decisive" in the case. Mr Syed was awarded his legal costs out of central funds.