6:50am Friday 11th May 2012
By Jenny Loweth
A leading Bradford judge has condemned a prosecutor’s decision to let a defendant accused of breaking a man’s jaw with a forceful punch off on a common assault charge.
Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) ruling not to force the man to be tried by a jury for grievous bodily harm was “grossly unfair” to his alleged victim and “beggar’s belief”.
The judge refused the Crown leave to amend the charge sheet to include common assault, the least serious assault offence.
“I cannot rubber stamp every decision that is put in front of me,” he said.
The defendant is said to have been with a group of 20 men when he shouted aggressively at his alleged victim, walked over and attacked him.
Barrister John Topham, appearing for the crown yesterday, said a letter had been sent by the CPS to the injured man explaining the decision to drop the charge down to common assault.
Mr Topham, who did not make the decision, said it was because a second group joined in the attack after the defendant’s initial alleged single punch.
The beaten-up man was said to have been kicked to the head and body when he was on the ground by others using “a high degree of gratuitous violence”.
The man’s barrister, Kathryn Walsh, said her client was also assaulted by the second group. He fled to a nearby address for help.
It could be difficult for a jury to decide when the man’s jaw was broken.
But Judge Durham Hall said the defendant, who had a referral order for attempted robbery, was described by his alleged victim as swinging his right arm and punching him forcefully straight in the jaw. He is said to have then jumped on his friend, pulled him down and attacked him.
Judge Durham Hall adjourned the case for 28 days for the CPS to reconsider the common assault charge. He said if nothing was done, the reviewing lawyer must come to court to publicly justify his “interesting” decision.
The defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was allowed bail until the next hearing.
After the case Sheila Aldridge, District Crown Prosecutor with CPS Yorkshire and Humberside said: “We have a duty to continuously review our cases. We took the view that there was insufficient evidence to show, to the required standard, that the one blow struck by the defendant was definitely the one that broke the victim’s jaw, rather than any of the numerous blows he received from a variety of other people at the scene.
“Further, there was not enough evidence to prove that the defendant was jointly liable for the subsequent group attack on the victim. We have written to the victim and to Judge Durham-Hall to explain our decision.”
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