The first crown court trial in the Midlands since the Covid-19 lockdown has resulted in a Coventry barman being cleared of assaulting a customer who had been ‘mouthing off.’
Despite Ethan Clifford declaring to the police that the man he injured ‘deserved a punch,’ and that his intention was ‘to shut him up,’ he denied a charge of causing grievous bodily harm.
And a socially-distanced jury at Warwick Crown Court took less than two hours to find Clifford (23) of Old Church Road, Coventry, not guilty by a unanimous verdict.
Prosecutor Graham Russell said that Thomas Maddison suffered serious head injuries during an incident on the car park of the Unicorn pub in Eastern Green, Coventry, in December 2018.
“There can be no doubt that that really serious harm resulted from a single punch to his head and his fall onto the tarmac of the car park.
“The fall is captured on CCTV, but unfortunately for us, the blow is not.
“Even so, there can be no doubt, because he admits it, that the person who struck the blow which caused that fall, which caused those really serious injuries, was Mr Clifford.”
Mr Russell pointed out that Clifford, who was a barman at the Unicorn, was ‘a man of good character who has never been in trouble,’ and that the jury had to decide whether he was acting unlawfully or ‘in reasonable self-defence.’
He explained that Mr Maddison was ‘not behaving at all well,’ and was making a nuisance of himself in the pub, stirring up trouble among other customers.
Things came to a head shortly after the pub closed, and when bar manager Callum King heard a noise from the car park and went outside he saw Mr Maddison urinating against a wall, so told him to leave and that he was barred.
Mr Maddison picked up a glass and threw it towards Mr King, but missed, and he was then escorted off the car park by Mr King and Clifford.
“Thomas Maddison did not take too kindly to that, and kept up a degree of verbal abuse, and he showed some behaviour that Mr King took to be hostile.”
He returned to the car park and came towards the two men, so Clifford pushed him away, and he fell onto his backside.
He got up and came towards them for a second time, so Clifford pushed him again, causing him to stumble, and he then left, only to reappear while Mr King and Clifford were still on the car park.
Clifford walked over to him and punched him, causing him to fall backwards and hit his head on the ground, as a result of which he suffered a fractured skull and injuries to his brain, from which, the court heard, he has now recovered.
When Clifford was questioned by police, he said he was getting ‘more and more pissed off’ by Mr Maddison, who he said was not bothered when told he was barred, and was ‘laughing and saying I was going to be stabbed.’
And he added: “I just hope he’s alright. I mean, he deserved a punch, but he didn’t deserve to be I hospital.”
Asked why Mr Maddison had deserved a punch, he said: “He was being cocky. My intention was to stop him mouthing off and causing any more trouble. My instinct was to shut him up.”
And Mr Russell commented to the jury: “It may be he was sorely provocative. But provocation is not a defence. The prosecution case is that Mr Clifford lost his temper and snapped.”
But Clifford told the jury that because of comments Mr Maddison had been heard making in a phone call, he believed that when he left the car park and returned, he may have had a knife.
Clifford, who said he was the sole carer for his twin children, explained that he hit Mr Maddison in self-defence because he feared he was about to attack him.