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Thursday, 20 December, 2001, 21:10 GMT
Leeds victim pursues civil claim
Woodgate and Bowyer were cleared of assault charges
The family of the student at the centre of the trial involving two Leeds United football players has confirmed plans to seek damages against the pair, three other men and the club.

Sarfraz Najeib's relatives described the jury's verdicts as "heartbreaking and illogical".

His father Muhammed said: "The violent and racist incident nearly cost my son his life, but the verdict last Friday was a blow from which we may never recover."

Club chairman Peter Ridsdale has denied the club treated the matter "frivolously", saying: "Our stance has been both considered and considerate at all times."

Mr Najeib was beaten unconscious in an attack outside a Leeds nightclub in January 2000, having been bitten on the face and suffered a broken leg, nose and cheekbone.

At Hull Crown Court last week, Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate were cleared of assaulting Mr Najeib, but Woodgate was convicted of affray.

Sarfraz Najeib at Thursday's press conference
Victim Sarfraz Najeib received severe injuries in the attack
Spokesman Suresh Grover said the family were also taking civil action against Neale Caveney, Paul Clifford and former Leeds reserve team striker Tony Hackworth, now with Notts County.

Clifford, 22, was given a six-year jail sentence for the attack, and Caveney, 22, was convicted of affray but cleared of assault.

Mr Hackworth was cleared of assault during the first trial earlier this year.

Mr Grover accused Leeds United Football Club of failing to control its players on the night of 12 January last year, and of a cover-up.

Meanwhile in the House of Lords, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Dholakia condemned the club for the way it handled the matter, and asked why it had not done more for the victim.

Mr Grover said civil summonses will be served on the club and the other individuals within weeks, if not days.

'Saddened but not surprised'

Mr Ridsdale said: "I had a meeting with Mr Grover and representatives of the Najeib family within days of our players' arrests.

Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale
Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale: "Considered and considerate"
"I expressed my concerns for the recovery of Sarfraz Najeib and explained the club's policy of innocence until proven guilty as far as the players were concerned.

"I am sure that everyone will recognise that until such time as the legal proceedings were concluded we were in no position to say anything further."

Mr Bowyer's solicitor, Steve Barker, said he had not spoken to his client but his own reaction was that the case was over, his client had been acquitted, and he was saddened but not surprised by the lawsuit.

Caveney's solicitor, David Scourfield, said his client had been found guilty only of being "part of a group that ran down a road".

Woodgate's solicitor, Mick Freeman, said he had no comment.

Racism claim

Mr Najeib's family said they would seek to prove there was a racist motive to the attack, despite the fact that this formed no part of the criminal case.

Paul Clifford
Paul Clifford was jailed for six years
The gist of the new case would rely largely on the same main evidence as the criminal trial, the family said.

Legal expert Georgina Squire said that in a civil action the burden of proof was much lighter than in a criminal trial.

"In a criminal action the case must be proved beyond all reasonable doubt - it's a virtual certainty. A civil case rests on a balance of probabilities," she said.

Bowyer stays at Leeds

Mr Ridsdale confirmed later on Thursday that Lee Bowyer had now been taken off the transfer list at Leeds United after agreeing to pay a set fine agreed between himself, the club and the Football Association.

He had been put up for sale after refusing to pay a fine of four week's wages imposed by the club after he admitted drinking a considerable amount of alcohol on the night of the incident.

Mr Ridsdale said: "A financial contribution equivalent to that previously stated has been agreed between the three parties and will be put towards the club's community programme for work within inner city communities and a local children's hospice.

"Leeds United would like to make it clear this is an internal disciplinary issue and in no way relates to the case at Hull Crown Court."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Catherine Marston
"Leeds United also face action"
Sarfraz Najeib's father Muhammed Najeib
"We have been failed - the evidence is there"
Lawyer Georgina Squire
"Criminal and civil actions are quite different"
See also:

20 Dec 01 | Eng Prem
Fans back Bowyer
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