Page last updated at 14:10 GMT, Friday, 16 October 2009 15:10 UK

Latvia 'stag brawl' pair cleared

Matthew Neale (left) and David Birkinshaw
Matthew Neale (left) and David Birkinshaw denied the charges

Two Derby men accused of attacking a police officer on a stag holiday in Latvia have been cleared by a court.

David Birkinshaw, 33, and Matthew Neale, 35, had faced charges of assaulting the officer during a brawl outside a bar in Riga in June 2008.

The pair were extradited to Latvia in August and detained at capital city Riga's Central Prison.

The trial in Riga started on 6 October. The men had both denied involvement in the assault.

Language barrier

The pair always insisted they had been blamed for an attack carried out by others and that witnesses contradicted each other.

Mr Birkinshaw said they were out celebrating and did not realise there was a problem until he was restrained.

He said previously: "I struggled but when I realised it was police I said 'I'm really sorry'.

The fight happened outside this bar
The pair insisted they were blamed for an attack carried out by others

"I thought I would just be taken for questioning but they said, 'You attacked a police officer, you go for 13 years'.

"But I said, 'What are you going on about? I haven't touched a police officer'."

The men were taken to court and a fine was issued, which they did not pay on their return to the UK, leading to their extradition.

The pair said they misunderstood the instructions because of the language barrier.

They had to wait a month to be given a trial date, and if convicted were facing anything from a suspended sentence to seven years in jail.

'Harsh conditions'

Mr Birkinshaw, of Alvaston, was due to marry his girlfriend Rachel Gee last month but the wedding was cancelled as he was still in jail.

Mr Gee vowed to rearrange the wedding as soon as possible, but said their savings have now been spent on solicitor's fees.

Both men described in letters home to family members 'harsh conditions' in the Latvian jail.

In one letter to Ms Gee, Mr Birkinshaw said he had flannels wrapped round his feet because the soles of his shoes were worn, his cell was freezing and cell-mates were "making life difficult".

Mr Neale told family: "It is 23 hours a day in a cell with five Latvians and one hour a day you get to go outside.

"Well, not outside, but into another cell, which is about 7m by 7m [23ftx23ft] and you get to walk up and down for an hour."



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