Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Friday, 24 July 2009 15:39 UK

Gerrard cleared after bar brawl

Steven Gerrard said he was glad to put the case behind him

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has been cleared of affray after punching a man in a Merseyside bar.

The England midfielder admitted hitting Marcus McGee, 34, in the Lounge Inn, Southport, in December last year but denied the charge of affray.

A jury at Liverpool Crown Court agreed with Mr Gerrard's assertion that he was acting in self-defence.

Speaking after the hearing, the player said he had put it behind him and was looking forward to the season ahead.

Six friends of the 29-year-old footballer, of Formby, admitted charges connected with the brawl and will be sentenced on 7 August.

Mr Gerrard emerged from court to applause from waiting Liverpool fans and said he was pleased with the verdict.

The verdict is a credible verdict on the full facts of this case, and you walk away from this court with your reputation intact
Judge Henry Globe

"I'm glad to put this case behind me. I'm really looking forward to the season ahead and concentrating on football," he said.

"I'd like to say a big thank you to my legal team, my friends and family and everyone at Liverpool Football Club for supporting me."

Members of the jury took just over 70 minutes to find the Reds' captain not guilty.

Judge Henry Globe told him: "The verdict is a credible verdict on the full facts of this case, and you walk away from this court with your reputation intact.

"You did not start the violence, it was started by the violent elbowing of Marcus McGee in the face by one of your friends John Doran.

Lounge Inn, Southport
Trouble flared at the club in a row over music

"At all times you insisted that you only ever acted in what you believed was reasonable self-defence to what you understandably, albeit you accept mistakenly, believed was an attempted attack upon you by Marcus McGee.

"What at first sight to the casual observer may seem to have been a clear-cut case against you of unlawful violence, has been nowhere near as clear-cut upon careful analysis of the evidence."

Liverpool manager, Rafa Benitez, who is in Singapore ahead of the team's game against the national side there on Sunday, said: "We are really pleased.

"He is very important for us and he can now focus just on football.

"We are all pleased at the club and over here at the training camp. We have been supporting him all the time and were just waiting for the decision.

"Now he can concentrate just on football and hopefully play at the same level as last year."

Mr Gerrard had been drinking with friends in the early hours of 29 December last year to celebrate Liverpool's 5-1 win over Newcastle United.

CCTV footage from the bar showed the group drinking beer, downing shots and dancing round while chanting football songs.

But the trouble flared at around 0200 GMT when Mr Gerrard wanted to change the music on the CD player, but was refused access by the man holding the control, Marcus McGee.

Pulled away

Mr Gerrard told the court he had been trying to ask Mr McGee why he had a problem with him when the businessman "very quickly" got off his bar stool.

He said he "firmly believed" he was about to be punched, and swung out in self-defence.

Mr Gerrard was quickly pulled away by friends and told the court he was "sorry about the whole incident".

The victim lost a tooth and suffered cuts to his face in the ensuing violence.

Five of Mr Gerrard's friends admitted affray.

They are Ian Gerrard Smith, 19, of Hilary Avenue; John Doran, 29, of Woodlands Road; and Paul McGrattan, 31, of Linden Drive, all Huyton; and Accrington Stanley footballers Robert Grant, 19, of Enstone Avenue, Litherland; and Ian Dunbavin, 28, of Guildford Road, Southport.

Another friend, John McGrattan, 34, of Rimmer Avenue, Huyton, admitted threatening behaviour.

The six men are due to be sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on 7 August.

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