Jack Woodley case: Judge gives thumbnail sketch of each case as jury retires

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Jack WoodleyImage source, Family handout
Image caption,
Jack Woodley died a day after being punched, kicked and fatally stabbed in Houghton-le-Spring in October

A judge has given a "thumbnail sketch" of the cases for and against 10 teenagers accused of a group murder.

Jack Woodley died a day after being punched, kicked and fatally stabbed in Houghton-le-Spring in October.

A 15-year-old boy admits manslaughter but denies murder. Nine others aged 14 to 18 deny both charges.

Ahead of the Newcastle Crown Court jury retiring to consider its verdict, HHJ Rodney Jameson QC outlined each defendant's case.

Prosecutors said the teenagers, none of whom can be identified, were intent on attacking someone at the Houghton Feast funfair on 6 October and chose Mr Woodley, who they did not know, for "trivial" reasons.

Mr Woodley was challenged to a fight but walked away towards Houghton town centre, followed by a group of about 30 youths.

Image caption,
Jack Woodley died in hospital a day after being attacked near the Britannia Inn in Houghton-le-Spring

As Mr Woodley, from Sunderland, approached the Britannia Inn, a 16-year-old boy ran up from behind and punched him in the back of the head triggering a melee, jurors have been told.

Others piled in by kicking, punching and stamping on Mr Woodley, and a 15-year-old armed with a 9in (25cm)-long knife stabbed him in the back.

The attack lasted about a minute and Mr Woodley died the following day in hospital.

Image source, Crown Prosecution Service
Image caption,
One of the 10 defendants admits stabbing Jack Woodley with a 9in (25cm) knife

The jury of six men and six women has now retired to consider its verdict.

Mr Jameson gave his "thumbnail sketch" of each defendant, which included:

Boy A, aged 15

He admits going home to get his coat and retrieving the knife about 20 minutes before the attack but says he was told Mr Woodley and his friends were possibly armed and wanted to cause trouble.

When the brawl started, he withdrew the 9in (25cm) knife to deter others and says it accidentally connected with Mr Woodley. He accepts lying to the police by saying he was not involved.

Submissions on his behalf include if he had intended to stab Mr Woodley, the long knife would have caused a deeper wound than the fatal 2.76in (7cm) one.

Boy B, aged 16

He admits attacking Mr Woodley first, says he cannot remember why and did not know others would join in.

Several witnesses said they saw him continuing the attack along with five or six other youths, but the boy claims he was pulled away by a girl shortly after the attack began and he had no further involvement.

Witnesses, including a co-defendant, said he was in a group seen "hustling" Mr Woodley to fight shortly before the attack.

Boy C, aged 17

He admits leaving the Feast with the 15-year-old knife owner and two others to go home and get money and, while returning, the youth showed him the concealed knife.

The boy says he told the knife owner he was "crazy". He said when the brawl began he threw a couple of punches but fled in shock after hearing Mr Woodley had been stabbed.

Boy D, aged 18 (17 at the time)

He heard the 15-year-old knifeman bragging about previously stabbing people and also saw the blade down the youth's tracksuit bottoms.

He said he threw punches at Mr Woodley in defence of his friend, the 16-year-old who began the attack. Witnesses said he hit Mr Woodley "a good few times" and the boy was also part of the "hustling" group.

The judge said his claim he was defending his friend could render the force he used lawful, but in the boy's defence statement he did not claim he was acting to defend his friend and the jury was "entitled" to consider if it was something the boy had "made up since".

Boy E, aged 14

He did not give evidence during the trial but told police he "only got involved so he wouldn't look bad in front of his friends", the judge said.

The judge said it was the prosecution's case that "if you join in to assist your mates in a joint fight, that is the classic definition of joint enterprise".

He added: "In any joint enterprise where a number of people are involved, of course all roles will be different. Some will have done more, some less, some will have been keen and thrilled, some more reluctant, some leaders, some followers."

He said the jury had to determine the extent of boy's involvement and his intent.

Boy F, aged 15 (14 at the time)

He admitted having a knuckle-duster with him but only for his protection and did not use it. The boy said he spoke to Mr Woodley at the feast and the pair left on friendly terms, he then intervened to tell others to leave the victim alone when he was being goaded before the attack.

The boy told police he threw two punches but told the court that was a lie and he had no involvement in the fight. He said he made the false confession because he thought that's what the police wanted to hear, the jury was told.

Witnesses said they saw the boy repeatedly punching and kicking Mr Woodley along with five or six others. One of his co-accused said he saw the boy kicking a girl - who was with Mr Woodley - in the face and another claimed the boy hit Mr Woodley while the victim was in a headlock, although he later changed his account to say it may have been a push.

The boy said the witnesses were mistaken, the judge said, and there was not the "pathological evidence" to show Mr Woodley had been hit with a knuckle-duster.

Boy G, aged 15 (14 at the time)

He gave no evidence but witnesses said he was part of the group "hustling" Mr Woodley and a co-defendant said the boy punched the victim.

The boy initially told police neither he nor his friends had anything to do with the attack but later admitted they did and his part was to fight Mr Woodley's friends.

His lawyers said jurors should consider whether his involvement may have been in defence of his 16-year-old friend who started the attack and if there was any intent on the boy's behalf to cause at least serious harm.

Boy H, aged 16 (15 at the time)

He also did not give any evidence.

Phone footage shot by a girl at the beginning of the attack showed the boy as part of the group around Mr Woodley and having his hood up, although the judge said there could be "innocent" reasons for having a hood up which the jury should consider.

The boy's lawyer said the short clip showed the boy not making contact with Mr Woodley but rather trying to pull the 16-year-old who triggered the attack away meaning jurors could "conclude he was, or at least may have been, trying to stop what was going on".

Boy I, aged 16 (15 at the time)

The boy said the mobile phone footage showed he did "become involved and used violence or at least force" on Mr Woodley but it was "only in order to stop the fighting and I did not realise it was Jack" he was grappling with.

His lawyers said if jurors accepted that as true, his "actions cannot proved to be unlawful".

The judge said the prosecution was "fundamentally asking" jurors to decide "whether it is in fact plausible that somebody going into stop fighting unluckily gets hold of the one person they say they were trying to protect rather than any of those attacking him".

Boy J, aged 18 (17 at the time)

The fourth boy not to give evidence, which his lawyers said was because there was "no case to answer".

In his police interview, the boy said he was not involved at all and it was not him, as the prosecution claimed, who was seen on video and by a witness, pulling a hat on to his head to cover his face as the attack began.

The trial continues.

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