Imperial doormen trial: Prosecution alleges violence against Sia Soliola went well 'beyond self-defence' (From St Helens Star)
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Imperial doormen trial: Prosecution alleges violence against Sia Soliola went well 'beyond self-defence'
FOOTAGE showing the moments a Saints rugby player was allegedly punched, kicked and struck with a metal pole by three nightclub doormen has been shown to a jury.
Prosecutors say the CCTV recorded outside and inside the entrance to the Imperial Bar is at the centre of their case against three men accused of attacking Sia Soliola.
The violence in the early hours of Monday, March 12 last year ended with the former New Zealand international being “knocked out cold” and suffering a fractured eye socket and cuts and grazes to his head, Liverpool Crown Court heard on Monday.
Opening the case for the prosecution, Philip Astbury said the doormen – Christopher Rose, Lee Simpson, and Keiran Waters are charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm on Mr Soliola.
They have all pleaded not guilty.
However, the prosecution claims they attacked the Saints backrower and that the “blows went way beyond lawful and reasonable self-defence in an incident which they themselves had started”.
Mr Astbury told the court the Saints player had been out drinking with friends at the Billinge Arms before moving on to The Imperial on Ormskirk Street later in the night.
Guiding a jury through what he described as “edited highlights” of the incident, he described how at about 2.20am Mr Soliola received a phone message from his friend Stephen Bacon, who was being refused re-entry to the nightclub.
The doormen had accused Mr Bacon of smashing a glass panel near to stairs that led to the exit.
Mr Astbury explained how footage showed the Saints player coming downstairs to see what was going on and then, standing on the pavement alongside Mr Bacon, speaking with the door staff.
The video includes no sound but the prosecution says Mr Soliola’s body language appears “very passive and conciliatory”.
After a few minutes Mr Soliola and Mr Bacon are seen to walk away from the club, however, seconds later the situation escalates.
Mr Astbury told the court: “Something must have been said which causes Mr Soliola to walk back to the doorway.
“This passage ends with Mr Soliola being punched in the face during a verbal exchange, not entirely clear by whom but appears to be Mr Waters.
“This was, significantly, say the prosecution, the first punch thrown.
“Having been punched it would seem Mr Soliola walks back towards the doormen, no doubt you may think angry because the punch was completely unprovoked.
“The three doormen respond by taking hold of him, throwing him to the floor at the foot of the stairs inside the doorway and set about him.
“He is punched repeatedly and the defendant, Rose, can be seen kicking him as he still lies on the floor.”
Moving the footage on, he added that Mr Soliola regained his feet before the violence continued.
He added: “The defendants Waters and Rose arm themselves with a metal pole and heavy rope respectively and follow him out into the street.
“There are various other people standing around who must have been terrified by what was unfolding before them.”
The footage shows Carl Forster, a Saints youngster, rushing out of the bar to try and help his team-mate.
Mr Astbury alleged that by that time the three were making threats to Soliola, suggesting it was “that they had lost their self control and were in ‘fight mode’.”
He added: “The next passage of footage shows Mr Soliola refusing to leave and continuing to try and push his way back in. He isn’t punching or kicking but is clearly upset.
“When he does get into the doorway you will see these defendants using extreme violence (in the melee that follows) and the metal bars are brandished.
“There is substantial blow to Mr Soliola’s head that knocks him out cold.”
Mr Astbury said that after regaining consciousness Mr Soliola was later found on a nearby bench by paramedics who took him to hospital.
The three defendants were arrested, he added, with one of them later claiming in police interview that “Mr Soliola had suggested that he had a knife and that he would cut them”.
Mr Astbury said the prosecution cannot say which one caused the serious harm but added “it was a joint attack and all three men were in it together”.
He added: “Really, the issue of this case is was it self defence? The prosecution’s case is what these men did went way beyond lawful and reasonable self-defence in an incident which they themselves had started.
“Whilst it is right to say that Mr Soliola may have been an imposing figure and that he refused to be cowed and back down, even after he had been assaulted at the beginning, the three defendants went on to lose self control with a violent and sustained assault that left him with significant injuries.
“They, by comparison, and despite everything they say in interview, apparently suffered none.
“The three were employed as security staff that night; employed to prevent incidents of violence - not to cause and participate in them.”
Rose, 33, of Hansby Drive, Speke, Simpson, 24, of Newarth Drive, Lymm and Waters, 25, of St Chads Road, Chester, sat in the dock as the prosecution delivered evidence.
The trial is expected to last five days.
The case continues.