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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 15:50 GMT
'Treat footballers equally', jury told
Lee Bowyer
Midfielder Lee Bowyer denies the charges
The judge in the trial of the Leeds United footballers has told the jury to treat all the defendants "without fear or favour".

Mr Justice Henriques said the jury should have an "impartial" approach to football stars Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer, and two other men, at Hull Crown Court.

"All are equal in the eyes of the law, be they footballers, welders or bricklayers," he said.

England defender Jonathan Woodgate and U-21 midfielder Lee Bowyer deny causing grievous bodily harm with intent on student Sarfraz Najeib.

Paul Clifford and Neale Caveney, both 22 and from Middlesbrough, also deny grievous bodily harm with intent, and all four deny affray.

Jonathan Woodgate
Jonathan Woodgate denies all charges

Mr Justice Henriques warned the jury to treat the identification of the defendants with caution.

He said: "There have been wrongful convictions in the past as a result of such mistakes."

The judge said Mr Woodgate and Mr Bowyer had both been identified by one witness on a videotape ID parade, after he had seen photographs of them in the press.

"The consequence of this was that both defendants were deprived of a protection given to the general public - namely to stand on an identity parade with eight others without the identifying witness having seen a photograph of the suspect," he said.

"Once a witness has seen a photograph any subsequent act of identification is just as likely to be of the photograph as it is to be of the individual observed at the scene.

"Therefore do not hold it against Jonathan Woodgate or Lee Bowyer that they declined upon legal advice to attend an identity parade of the conventional type."

'Drunken intent'

Mr Najeib, 21, from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, suffered a broken nose, fractured leg and a bite mark to his cheek in the incident in Leeds city centre in January last year.

On the first day of what is expected to be a lengthy summing-up, the judge said there was no suggestion the attack on Mr Najeib and his brother Shahzad was motivated by racial hatred.

Sarfraz Najeib
Sarfraz Najeib suffered several injuries
He said the prosecution case was that the attack was a beating to punish Mr Najeib for "having had the brass neck" to punch a drunken friend of Mr Woodgate, James Hewison, during a confrontation outside the Majestyk nightclub.

The judge said: "The defence case is that in respect of each defendant he was not involved."

The judge said that the jury had to consider each count against each defendant separately.

He added that any of the defendants would be guilty of GBH if they committed the attack - which allegedly followed a chase after the nightclub confrontation - or were there and encouraged it, if only by their presence.

And he added that any drunkenness on the part of the defendants should have no bearing on the verdict.

"A drunken intent is nevertheless an intent," he said.

'Innocent explanation'

The judge said lies had been told in the case but the jury had to consider why the lies had been told.

If a defendant had lied about some aspect of his evidence, it was not an indication of guilt.

"If you think there may be a wholly innocent explanation in the lies, you should take no notice of them," he said.

"It is only if you are sure they did not lie for an innocent reason, that their lies can be regarded by you as lies counting towards their guilt."

The trial was adjourned until Thursday.


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03 Dec 01 | England
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