Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Thursday, 5 November 2009

Man guilty of beard fire attack

Dean Hardy (left) and Aedan Palmer
Dean Hardy (l) and Aedan Palmer are due to be sentenced on 3 December

A man who set fire to a train passenger's beard as he slept has been convicted of grievous bodily harm.

Dean Hardy, 20, of Grace Road, Crawley, West Sussex, assaulted Luke Kennedy, 22, on a train from Brighton to Littlehampton in December 2008.

Two 14-year-old boys were acquitted while Aedan Palmer, 19, of Tower Road, Lancing, West Sussex, had admitted the charge at an earlier hearing.

Mr Kennedy suffered third degree burns, Chichester Crown Court was told.

All four defendants were cleared of the more serious charge of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent.

During the seven-day trial, jurors heard that Hardy and Palmer had spent the afternoon of the attack in Lancing drinking cans of lager.

Raised the alarm

Then, with the two boys, they boarded the train just after 1915 GMT on 7 December without buying tickets with the intention of travelling to Durrington to buy some cannabis.

Prosecutor Richard Barton said from the moment they had got on to the train and sat opposite Mr Kennedy they had begun taunting him as he slept.

Palmer then put a lighter to his "significantly long" beard and set it alight.

The group were seen on CCTV laughing and smiling before getting off at the next station.

Other train passengers raised the alarm after finding Mr Kennedy unconscious on the floor of the carriage.

He was taken to Worthing Hospital before being transferred to the specialist burns unit at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead.

CCTV footage of Palmer and Hardy surrounding Mr Kennedy on the train
Aedan Palmer set light to Mr Kennedy's beard as he slept

He suffered burns to his lips, ears and cheeks.

During their defence, Palmer said the incident "was just a silly joke that went wrong".

Hardy and Palmer are due to sentenced on 3 December with Judge Claudia Ackner telling then custodial sentences were a possibility.

Shop worker Mr Kennedy, who attended the whole trial, said after the verdict that he was "not happy" that Hardy and Palmer were acquitted of the more serious offence.

He said although his physical scars had healed, he had continued to suffer from stress and anxiety since the attack and had attended counselling sessions.

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