A judge told a jury that two men who fractured a railway signalman’s eye socket after he attempted a citizen’s arrest should be cleared of all charges.
Recorder Simon Kealey said although everyone had sympathy for the victim the Crown had failed in its fundamental duty to call evidence to disprove claims those who struck him had acted in lawful self defence. He said it was his public duty to stop their trial as no jury properly directed could safely convict the men of serious charges which had left the man with life-changing injuries.
He said although the man received a fractured eye socket, the defendants were not expected to measure the degree of force used to a nicety.
The violence occurred after a can of Stella Artois was thrown at the signalman’s house in Sewerby Road, Bridlington, around 10.30pm on July 16 2013. Following the incident the signalman needed two operations at York Hospital to correct movement in his left eye.
James Othick, 24, of North Marine Drive, and Jordan Whitehead, 25, of Martongate, Bridlington, both smiled as they walked free from the dock of Hull Crown Court after a three-day trial (May 17-20).
James Othick said on the court steps: “We said were not guilty from day one. We are pleased it is now over.” Both men were cleared of two separate charges of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and grievous bodily harm on the direction of the judge.
The jury had heard the signal man had protested at noise coming from a neighbours party at 10.25pm on a Tuesday night when he needed to be up at 5am the next day.
He ran out, dressed only in shorts, to grab the lad and call 999. “
“I was not expecting any problems. I grabbed hold of the person who had done it and dragged him back to my house to get the police involved. I asked him what he chucked at the house. He did not say anything. Things escalated very quickly from that point.”
In police interview, James Othick said the neighbour had attacked him. “As we walked past this guy’s house he came down shouting his head off,” said Mr Othick. “He came down in an aggressive boxing stance as if he wanted to have a go. He said it was you. He grabbed my throat and punched me. I started throwing punches back. One of my friends kicked him at some point across the face. This guy was extremely hostile.
“I retaliated once. As we went down I punched him once. He had two punches that caught me clean. I retaliated and hit him. I punched back 3-4 times. It was self defence.” Jordan Whitehead said he too acted in self defence.
After hearing the evidence Recorder Simon Kealey said he had to agree with defence that he could not safely allow the case to continue before the jury.
He said: “In my judgment there is nothing that will allow the jury to conclude that the defendants were not acting in self defence. There is no evidence from the complainant of how he came to be assaulted, simply that his mind went blank. This was a fast-moving incident where the complainant behaved aggressively to begin with. He emerged from the house a man he perceived to be responsible. This was the trigger for the attack. In my judgment what arose at the scene was spontaneous and no-one knew what was going to happen.”
Recorder Kealey told the jury: “Like all of us there is a degree of sympathy for the complainant’s injuries in this case. This is not a decision I have taken lightly.” Crown barrister Julia Baggs said it would not be appealing the judge’s ruling. He ordered the jury should find both men not guilty of all charges and allowed them to walk free. Witness cost orders were granted.