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Friday, 9 June, 2000, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
Pub couple walk free
The Kingston Tavern
The pub where Mr Gates drank the lethal cocktail
A landlady and her husband have been cleared of killing a customer after goading him into drinking nearly a pint of spirits.

Mr Justice Turner told the Winchester Crown Court jury that while licensee Teresa Browning, 33, and her husband Kevin Browning, 35, owed no duty of care to the man who died, they had a heavy moral responsibility for his death.

He also recommended that neither defendant should be allowed to hold a drinks licence in future.

The court had heard that 44-year-old Barry Gates had spent much of the day drinking lager in the Kingston Tavern, Portsmouth, on 7 June 1999.

Mr and Mrs Browning, who had denied manslaughter, then cajoled him into drinking a pint glass filled with spirits including whisky, brandy, gin and vodka by betting him that he could not do it.

Shortly after downing the cocktail, Mr Gates fell to the floor and the Brownings were said to have tried to take photographs of him.

Barry Gates
Barry Gates: Collapsed and died

It later became clear that he was seriously ill and he was taken to the Queen Alexandra Hospital at Cosham but was certified dead within 30 minutes of arrival.

Pathologist Dr Roger Ainsworth told the court Mr Gates died of acute alcohol poisoning which caused him to stop breathing. A post mortem indicated he had inhaled his own vomit.

Instructing the jury to acquit the couple, Mr Justice Turner said that in law they had no duty of care to their customers.

'Moral responsibility'

But the judge said this did not mean they "have not committed acts which may be justly criticised as reprehensible, utterly wrong and irresponsible".

He said: "They have a heavy moral responsibility for the unfortunate death of Mr Gates.

"But cases in these courts are not determined by such considerations.

Kevin and Teresa Browning
Kevin and Teresa Browning leave court at an earlier stage of the hearing

"They are determined by whether or not the prosecution can prove the necessary ingredients that go to make up the offence which has been charged."

He added: "This has not been a case in which a duty of care has been found to exist on the part of those who supply alcoholic drink to those who are willing to consume it.

"That does not mean that such a duty cannot exist.

"It means no more than that the common law has not yet recognised that such a duty of care exists."

Mr Gates had willingly consumed the alcohol, he said, and knew what he was doing when he took the bet.

Outside court David Lancaster, representing Kevin Browning, said: "Mr Browning is understandably pleased with today's outcome, he has lost a close friend in Mr Gates and his livelihood and his marriage have collapsed.

"He has suffered from depression and has had thoughts of suicide."

Mr Lancaster also criticised media coverage of the case as one-sided and unfair.

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