A WEALTHY English laird and former magistrate was cleared by a court yesterday after telling of his fears of kidnap and robbery as he struggled with two police officers in the grounds of his mansion in the Highlands.

Landowner 56-year-old John Tinsley told a court that he was not convinced the men in dark jumpers and trousers were genuine police officers because of their behaviour and because they were not wearing caps. He feared he was going to be kidnapped or robbed just as a friend had been some years before.

Inverness Sheriff Court was told that the police suspected Mr Tinsley had been drinking when he drove away from the local inn at 2am. But the estate owner countered by claiming that the constables acted like hooligans, and their behaviour made him think they were on either drink or drugs.

Giving evidence, Mr Tinsley, from Lincolnshire, said: ''I was extremely frightened of them because going through my mind was the memory of one of my friends who was burgled by two men who had come in not different circumstances to this, and this was in the back of my mind.''

He agreed with Donald Findlay QC, defending, that the behaviour of the men was inconsistent with how he would expect police to behave.

The court heard that Mr Tinsley had phoned Northern Constabulary HQ and complained about the behaviour of the two officers, Constables Cameron MacRae, 36, and George MacAskill, and had claimed they must have been on drink or drugs.

Earlier, the two officers said that they saw Mr Tinsley's Jeep drive away from the Tomatin Inn at 2am and followed in their unmarked police car. During the one mile trip to his home at Corrybrough Estate House, south of Inverness, his driving was erratic and they thought he might be drunk.

Constable MacRae said he did not want Mr Tinsley to get inside his house and told him he was a police officer and he was under arrest. He pushed him up against a car and tried to handcuff him and a violent struggle ensued. ''The man is one of the strongest people I have ever met. It was a struggle from start to finish,'' he said.

Mr Tinsley denied failing to stop his car for the police when they displayed a blue flashing light, failing to give a breath specimen, struggling with the police and breaking the peace by shouting and conducting himself in a disorderly manner.

He told Sheriff James Fraser that he also had a home in Lincolnshire as well as running Corrybrough as a shooting estate, sheep farm and commercial forest.

Mr Tinsley, married with four sons, said he had been a magistrate in Lincolnshire for two years when aged 30, but had to retire from the bench due to pressure of business.

On October 5 he had gone to the inn with his youngest son George and two of his friends to make the last shoot of the season. He had consumed two beers and would normally have had no fears about taking a breath test.

He was aware of a car following but never saw any blue light. It was virtually pitch black when the car stopped alongside his and the two men got out. ''There was nothing to indicate they were police officers,'' said Mr Tinsley. ''They came towards me as I waited by the side of my car. One said 'Get into the back of our car.' I asked them to show me their warrant cards. At no time did they say why they wanted me to get into the back of their car.

''One of them said: 'We don't need to do that.' My immediate reaction was that they cannot be police officers. I asked them to walk to the light to resolve this matter, but one of them got hold of me, pushed me over the bonnet of my car and handcuffed my hands behind my back. Then I was pushed to the ground.

Mr Tinsley agreed that in his fear he struggled with the police and somehow managed to fight his way out of the back of the police car. He said: ''I was amazed to hear one of the officers say I was one of the strongest men he had ever encountered and I was slightly flattered. But it reflected on my state of panic at the time. I thought I was being kidnapped.''

He said the situation calmed down when two gamekeepers appeared out of the trees and eventually the police left. But later the same morning other officers came and arrested him.

Sheriff Fraser said it was critical whether he accepted the police had asked Mr Tinsley to give a breath sample, and there was doubt in his mind whether the Crown had proved this happened. He had to give the benefit of the doubt to the accused and therefore found him not guilty on all four charges.