A jury has taken just 30 minutes to acquit a St Albans man on a serious bashing charge.
Judge Alistair discharged 52-year-old Stephen Edward Fenelon immediately and told him he could leave the dock.
The judge told the jury: “If it is any comfort to you, based on the evidence you heard, I agree with you.”
Mr Fenelon had denied a charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm in the four-day trial in the Christchurch District Court.
The defence team of Tony Garrett and Kiran Paima argued that the jury could not be sure who had carried out the bashing and when.
Crown prosecutor Aja Trinder presented the case that Mr Fenelon had bashed the alleged victim, Ahmed Hassan Ahmed – a Muslim man of Somalian background – after asking him if he was an Islamic State supporter.
Mr Ahmed told the court that he remembered pushing Mr Fenelon and telling him he was an idiot before there was wrestling and being eye-gouged. He had not other recollection of the assault.
He woke later to find he had been badly beaten and had a fractured eye-socket that put him in hospital for surgery to insert a titanium plate.
The trial was told the assault took place after a congenial 21st birthday party at the Sydenham Cricket Club rooms in Brougham Street, after Mr Fenelon and Mr Ahmed had drunk together and chatted cheerfully about their shared interest in London football teams.
But the Crown said Mr Fenelon’s mood had later darkened and the assault had taken place.
The defence pointed to conflicting accounts by Mr Ahmed about who had inflicted the injuries, including a suggestion that he had been set upon by a group.
Mr Fenelon had given evidence that he had not carried out the bashing and knew nothing of it until he and his partner found the victim, injured, at the clubrooms.
Judge Garland summed up for the jury this morning and they began their deliberations at 2.15pm. At 2.45pm they knocked on the jury room door to indicate they had reached their verdict and then came out to announce the acquittal.