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A young man was found guilty of assault at Fort William Sheriff Court last Thursday after an altercation on Cinema Lane.
Lewis Simpson, 21, originally from Fort William, but who now lives in Glasgow working as a trainee architect, was found guilty of kicking a man in the head during a fight involving five men that broke out in the early hours of May 14, 2017.
The court heard multiple accounts of the night from all parties involved, but both sides agreed that the evidence was confusing.
The liberal consumption of alcohol by all involved, and distance time-wise from the event, led to spotty recollections, with only the police witnesses giving a clear account of what they saw.
Procurator Fiscal, Martina Eastwood, said that while there was some mystery in the case, the ‘credibility and reliability’ of the police officers could be counted on.
Ms Eastwood said Simpson was seen exiting the alley and returning to the brawl a few times, adding: ‘The CCTV shows him clearly being able to avoid the situation and even if there was an initial aggression from [the complainer], he has admitted that he chose to go back in.’
The court heard it was unclear how the fight started due to the position of the CCTV camera, but what was clear was that Simpson, his co-accused – who was found to have no case to answer – and a friend who was seen pulling the boys away from the lane, ran from the alley when police arrived. Two older men were left on the ground.
PC John MacKerlich was the first out of the car and saw what appeared to be Simpson – who was standing – kick the complainer – who was lying on the ground – on the head. He then chased the young men as they ran.
PC William Quinn was driving and had to turn the car engine off when they arrived so did not see the incident happen, but tended to the two men who were injured on the ground.
The court also heard that as the fight was happening, the man with the complainer fell backwards and, in the process, broke his ankle. The complainer had a number of injuries, but none were serious.
Defence agent Gerry Sweeney that Simpson and the complainer were grappling on the ground and as Simpson attempted to free his foot from the other man’s hands, it would seem that he kicked.
Sheriff Gary Aitken found this to be insufficient to prove Simpson not guilty.
Sheriff Aitken said: ‘He comes before me with no previous convictions and has had the benefit of seeing his behaviour on the CCTV and hearing what various witnesses described. Alcohol seems to be a serious factor in this case.
‘Mr Simpson seems to be at the start of a promising and pro-social career and I would be willing to defer sentence for some time so he can prove himself better than this.
Then speaking to Simpson directly, Sheriff Aitken said: ‘I sincerely hope you have learned something from this and I will give you a chance to show you have. I will defer sentence for 12 months.
‘It would be very much in your best interest that you do not find yourself involved with the police in any way.’