A doorman whose single punch led to the death of a York father has been found not guilty of manslaughter.
Lee Sutcliffe, 39, knocked Darren Pudsey, 45, to the ground outside The Terrace sports bar in York city centre in April last year following an altercation both inside and outside the pub.
Mr Sutcliffe, of Buckingham Court, Bishophill, denied manslaughter on the grounds of self-defence after being “taunted, antagonised and belittled” by Mr Pudsey and two other men who were acting rowdily.
Barrister Katherine Robinson, for Mr Sutcliffe, said the doorman reacted to the group’s goading which was “unpleasant, to say the least” after they refused when he asked them to leave.
She said that one of the named men had been upsetting customers with his “unruly and provocative” behaviour inside the bar before the fatal incident which prompted the landlord to instruct Mr Sutcliffe to eject him from the bar.
The named man had threatened to “knock out” the landlord while watching a football match on TV and the landlord called police as he believed they “posed a risk” to other customers.
Mr Sutcliffe ejected the man. The two others, including Mr Pudsey, also left the bar but later returned looking “for trouble”.
Other customers who witnessed the commotion at the Fossgate bar were sympathetic with Mr Sutcliffe’s efforts at trying to deal with the “unruly” group, said Ms Robinson.
One witness said he saw the group “taunting” Mr Sutcliffe outside the bar after he had ejected them and that he “stood his ground” despite being under a lot of stress.
Another witness said the group were “making (derogatory) comments about people from York” and “taking the pxxx” out of Mr Sutcliffe to try to humiliate him.
He said the group were “acting like it was some kind of game to wind him up, goading him” and one of them was “making gorilla movements with his arms”.
“He said the bouncer would certainly have been intimidated,” said Ms Robinson.
“(Mr Sutcliffe) just wanted them to go away.”
‘Shocked and upset’
Another witness said that when the group returned to the bar, they had “their arms pulled wide, shouting ‘Who do you think you are?’”.
He said he felt “sorry for the bouncer” because the group were “trying to belittle him”.
Another witness said the group were in (Mr Sutcliffe’s) face” and Mr Pudsey was filming him with his mobile phone.
He saw “pushing and shoving” and then a punch and a man falling to the ground.
Mr Sutcliffe took the phone off Mr Pudsey and in the heat of the commotion grabbed him and punched him. Mr Pudsey lay unmoving on the ground.
Mr Pudsey, from Upper Poppleton, a father of four, never regained consciousness and died when his life support was switched off two days later.
Ms Robinson said that Mr Sutcliffe, who was the only bouncer on the doors that night, was “shocked and upset” after the fast-moving incident on 19 April last year.
She said that Mr Sutcliffe “honestly thought” he was about to be attacked and had tried to “match their aggression, not wanting to show weakness”.
She said the group were repeatedly asking for his name when they returned to the bar just after 10pm as he told them to “just go home” as he had just finished his shift.
“He was concerned about the customers and staff inside,” said Ms Robinson.
“(The group) were in his face. He thought he was at risk of imminent attack.”
Prosecutor Michael Smith had claimed that Mr Sutcliffe had caused “a number of flashpoints” by putting his head close to theirs or pushing them away before they initially walked away towards Colliergate.
However, he said they should not have returned an hour and 20 minutes later.
He claimed that Mr Pudsey was “simply asking for his phone back” when he was punched by Mr Sutcliffe, although the group admitted they had returned to the bar to deliberately try to goad the doorman.
The jury deliberated for a short period before returning a verdict of not guilty this afternoon.