Belfast Telegraph

Golfer acquitted of grievous bodily harm after 'fight' at Holywood Golf Club

Pacemaker Press 13/8/2012 Holywood Club Pro Stephen Crooks Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 13/8/2012 Holywood Club Pro Stephen Crooks Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

By Paul Higgins

Holywood Golf Club’s resident pro has been acquitted of grievous bodily harm but was told by a judge that neither he nor the complainant “emerges from this with any form of credit.”

At the end of three hours of evidence at Newtownards Magistrates Court on Tuesday, District Judge Mark Hamill acquitted 40-year-old Stephen Crooks, of Birch Park in Bangor, of causing GBH to Michael Sinclair on St. Patrick’s Day last year.

Judge Hamill said the prosecution had “ failed in their duty” to convince him of its version of events and said he believed Mr Crooks’ version of events.

Addressing the two men however Judge Hamill told them: “Nobody emerges from this with any form of credit.”

The court heard that Mr Crooks had been drinking in the club with Mr Sinclair when their conversation turned heated.

During their argument Mr Sinclair pushed Mr Crooks who responded by punching him in the left eye, fracturing his eye socket.

Giving evidence, Mr Sinclair told the court he had been invited by the former general manager of Holywood Golf Club to watch the Ireland rugby team play in the Six Nations and was in the club from 2pm.

He said he knew Mr Crooks, that there was no animosity between them and he had even had a lesson with him in 2015.

Explaining the circumstances surrounding the brief fight, Mr Sinclair said as the two began to argue at around 10.30pm, Mr Crooks shouted loudly in his ear and threatened him with physical violence, so he (Sinclair) pushed Mr Crooks away.

Mr Sinclair said Mr Crooks responded by punching him in the eye.

Giving evidence on his own behalf, Mr Crooks said he was upset and hurt when Mr Sinclair criticised Holywood Golf Club, the club team and his competence as a golf professional.

Mr Crooks said he took it as a “personal attack” on himself and the golf club but denied shouting in Mr Sinclair’s ear, claiming he merely whispered a comment and he felt scared after Mr Sinclair pushed him so he punched him.

Judge Hamill said criminal cases have to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The defence don’t have to prove anything, I have to be convinced by the prosecution version of events,” he said.

The judge said he didn’t believe that Mr Crooks shouted in Mr Sinclair’s ear due to the lack of a reaction to the shout on CCTV and that the prosecution had “failed in their duty” to convince him to the requisite standard so he was going to acquit the defendant.

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