Monday, September 13, 1999 Published at 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
TV actor escapes jail term
Actor Jesse Bridsall - "not normally a threat to the public"
TV tough guy Jesse Birdsall has narrowly escaped a prison sentence for an "unprovoked attack" on a businessman.
The 36-year-old star of the BBC's sci-fi series Bugs was told by a judge at London's Southwark Crown Court that he would not face jail for the offence because the prisons are "full enough".
Birdsall, who rose to fame in the ill-fated BBC soap Eldorado, was instead ordered to pay £1,000 compensation to his victim, company director Brian Morgan.
Theactor must also pay £500 towards prosecution costs within 28 days.
Mr Morgan was knocked from his bar stool and sent crashing to the floor after he was struck by Birdsall "with an awful lot of power", according to one eyewitness.
Judge Jeffery Rucker told the actor there appeared to be blame on both sides, but that it was Birdsall who has resorted to violence.
"I think you appreciate you risked an immediate custodial sentence. But prisons are quite full enough without putting people like you inside who are not normally a threat to the public."
In passing sentence, the judge said a fine "is adequate to redress the damage."
He added that a prison term might cause Birdsall to lose his livelihood, with "consequences quite beyond what is necessary".
The star, who played baddie Marcus Tandy in the short-lived soap Eldorado, refused to comment on the case as he left court.
Adina Ezekiel, prosecuting, explained that Birdsall's guilty plea to one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm was on the accepted basis that the blow delivered was a slap and not a punch.
She said that the father of two had met Mr Morgan at a party some time before the attack.
"They saw each other on a few subsequent occasions and it is clear they did not get along."
Miss Ezekiel said the two men quite literally bumped into each other in the pub. Birdsall left only to return later and strike the victim.
"Whether it was a punch or a slap with the back of his hand, Mr Birdsall accepts that he was responsible for the injuries received by Mr Morgan," said the counsel.
She suggested that "attention paid to the victim's girlfriend, and perhaps a few comments made by Mr Birdsall to Mr Morgan", may have been at the root of their animosity.
Despite the friction between the men, Miss Ezekiel said the incident in question was "an unprovoked attack".
She added that Birdsall had one previous conviction - now spent - for occasioning actual bodily harm in 1981.
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