Man who battered friend to death in row over noodles jailed for seven years - the week's court news

Man who battered friend to death in row over noodles jailed for seven years - the week's court news

Friday, December 16, 2016

Court News and talkRADIO round up the most intriguing court stories from across the UK over the past week.

A killer who battered his friend to death in the street when he refused to eat some of his noodles has been jailed for just seven years.

Lee Baker, 41, punched drinking partner Alan Dutton, 48, several times in the face, sending his victim sprawling to the groundn the incident on June 16.

Then, as Mr Dutton lay with massive skull fractures and brain damage, Baker, who was high on crack cocaine and super-strength lager, hurled abuse and demanded he "get up."

He told emergency services his friend of ten years had fallen down drunk, denying him the urgent medical attention of which he was in desperate need.

CCTV shown during Baker's trial revealed that he threw the first punch while his noodles were still in his hand, before putting down the meal to free up both hands for the attack.

Sentencing Baker, who was acquitted of murder but found guilty of manslaughter, Judge Anthony Morris QC told him: 'Your behaviour showed a callous disregard for the welfare of a man you called a friend.'

"It may be, you offered him some noodles and he declined and you took offence at that," said the judge.

"But I am satisfied you lost your temper over what you perceived to be a slight by him, which arose as a result of the drink and drugs you had taken. You then carried out an unprovoked attack on him."

However, the judge added "I accept the consequence of your punches were far more serious than you intended and ever contemplated and you will have to live with the fact you caused the death of a friend.'

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Entertainer Rolf Harris will stand trial via video link from prison for an alleged string of historical sex attacks dating back more than 45 years because he will be too "ill, tired, or hungry" to be in court.

Rolf Harris was jailed in July 2014 (Getty)

The 86-year-old artist and musician faces eight allegations against seven females dating from 1971 to 2004 - one of whom is said to have been under 13.

He was charged earlier this year with seven counts of indecent assault and one of sexual assault as part of Operation Yewtree, an inquiry into celebrities suspected of child sex offences.

His alleged victims include a girl under thirteen who claims to have been assaulted by the Australian-born star in 1977.

The earliest complaint dates back to July 10,1971 when Harris is said to have indecently assaulted a girl under 16.

A third teenage girl, also under 16 at the time, is alleged to have been a victim of Harris on New Year's Eve, 1983.

Four other females have made claims against Harris relating to incidents in 1977, 1978, 2002 and 2004.

The 2004 alleged incident also features an alternative count of sexual assault which jurors are expected to try Harris on.

The former singer and Animal Hospital presenter appeared via video from HMP Stafford at Southwark Crown Court  on Thursday and asked to stand trial via video link because of his frail condition.

When he appeared on the screen, Judge Alistair McCreath said: "Ah, the man himself."

Harris spoke only to confirm his name but appeared to listen intently as the administrative hearing took place.

Steve Vullo QC, defending, said: "He is well-settled where he is and if is to attend this trial in person he is likely to be transferred to HMP Wandsworth, which causes him some trepidation.'

Mr Vullo said Harris is worried about "difficulties he has in respect of infection" as well as other medical complaints, and argued it "makes enormous common sense" to allow him to stand trial via video link.

Judge McCreath said he had "no difficulty" finding that the circumstances of the case are 'exceptional' and justify Harris standing trial via video link. However the court heard that the arrangement could be a legal first as Judge McCreath said: "I have no personal nor anecdotal [knowledge] of a trial ever being conducted in this way."

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A City financier drowned when "horseplay went tragically wrong" at a stag party before the guests had drunk the first beer, an inquest heard.

Nishanthan Gnanathas, 31, who was the best man, hit his head on a wire balustrade when he was pushed from a yacht by Andre van Eck into Lisbon's River Tagus.

He was unconscious when he hit the water and never resurfaced, Westminster Coroner's Court heard.

Gnanathas's family had to wait an agonising six days before his body was recovered from the water after a major sea and air search involving police boats and a helicopter.

Van Eck insisted he had asked the captain when it was safe to push Mr Gnanathas overboard.

Nishanthan hit his head after being pushed from the yacht (not pictured), a coroner found (Flickr)

Witness Youssef Ismail said: "I got married about a year earlier, but we were doing a one-year anniversary party for friends and family, because they weren't there.

"Nish was my best man. He organised the trip to go to Portugal as a stag do. Nish ended up in the water and hit his head on the way in.

"Everyone was like "oooh". I jumped in, so did Andre, but we couldn't find him. I think we were on our first beer.

When asked if Gnanathas hit his head, Ismail replied: 'We didn't see it, we heard it. We half-expected him to be messing around to be honest with you.

Gnanathas' father asked the witness if the 'joke' had been planned. IIsmail replied: "I think the joke was 'the best man goes overboard.' It was just friends playing around. No one even thought he was in danger.

"The funny thing is I protected his phone more than I protected him. If I thought he was in danger I would've let him keep his phone."

Van Eck told the inquest: "He was the best man. When we went to restaurants and the food was late, it was Nish's fault. We were all going to get into the water at some point.

"He protested in a sense, he said "I've got a beer, I've got a beer." On a stag do, a beer is precious."

As he stepped down from the stand, Van Eck turned to Gnanathas' family and said "I'm really sorry."

Dr Heath gave the cause of death as immersion in water, adding "this was horseplay. There was never any intention by anyone of any person to hurt and I find that these actions were not wholly responsible.

"This was an absolutely tragic accident that could not have been reasonably anticipated. It was just horseplay that went tragically wrong."

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