SMB’s crime team secures acquittal of baseball umpire in ‘worrying’ case

28th July 2021

SMB’s crime team, led by Partner Phil Smith and assisted by Senior Associate Henrietta Ronson and Paralegal Mark Soames, have secured a not guilty verdict at Wood Green Crown Court in a high-stakes case involving a highly-regarded baseball umpire.

SMB’s client was struck by a team manager whom he had ejected from a baseball game and, as a result he reacted in self-defence to protect himself from further attack. He called the police and reported the incident as a victim, before deciding that he did not wish to prosecute his assailant, preferring to leave the matter in the hands of the baseball authorities as opposed to the criminal courts.

However, the presence of an off-duty police officer at the scene, as a teammate of the team manager, led the police to instigate a separate investigation and the CPS to prosecute our client for Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm.

Instructed after our client had been charged, the defence assembled a substantial body of evidence to demonstrate that this prosecution should never have been brought in the first place. We argued that this evidence overwhelmingly supported the assertion that the complainant in this case, together with the off-duty police officer had wrongly incriminated our client.

This evidence included the taking of witness statements from 14 witnesses to this incident and other incidents involving the complainant. We established that the complainant had previously been suspended by the baseball authorities for an attempted head-butt during a match in 2010 and that since this incident, the off-duty officer had left the Metropolitan Police in disgrace after being convicted of common assault against an innocent party while on duty.

Having submitted lengthy representations that the CPS should drop the charge against our client, a sympathetic CPS stated that notwithstanding the obvious concerns, they were unwilling to discontinue the case as they were hamstrung by the wishes of the complainant to proceed to trial.

Ultimately, when confronted with our application to adduce further bad character evidence in the form of a camera phone recording of yet another aggressive act by the complainant during a baseball match in September 2020, the CPS accepted there was no realistic prospect of securing a conviction and withdrew the charge two days before trial. Louise Sweet QC of 2 Bedford Row was instructed.

Head of the Criminal Law Department Phil Smith said: ‘This was a worrying case. The decision to charge our client and prosecute him through to the brink of trial was a grave travesty of justice. Thankfully, after more than two years, the CPS have seen sense in the nick of time’.