Spilled champagne row after hotel's Lobster Festival lands several guests in court (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Spilled champagne row after hotel's Lobster Festival lands several guests in court
TEMPERS frayed in a hotel reception area following a charity lobster and champagne event.
A row over spilled champagne in the bar after the Lobster Festival, at Hardwick Hall Hotel, in Sedgefield, County Durham, resulted in a drunken melee which spread into the reception foyer.
Several ticket holders at the £160-per head event became involved, using fixtures and fittings as weapons, in a scene described as like, "a Wild West saloon brawl”.
Durham Crown Court heard that during the incident a serious neck injury was inflicted on a bystander, who arrived at the hotel to collect portable toilets used at the event, which was staged in a marquee in the hall grounds, on April 27, 2012.
As his son, who was working with him, looked on, the victim had a broken champagne flute thrust into his neck by a member of a group at the event, said to be from the Hartlepool area.
Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, told the court that the man believed responsible for that attack has not been apprehended and remains at large.
But as a result of the circulation of CCTV stills by Durham Police, who were unfamiliar with some of the participants in the violence, colleagues in the neighbouring Cleveland force were able to provide names of some of those involved.
It led to several others, apart from the alleged principal culprit, being arrested and charged.
Men aged 48 and 29, from the Hartlepool area, admitted affray at a hearing last July, and will be sentenced following the outcome of proceedings against other alleged participants in the violence.
Two further accused, 46-year-old Stuart Bell and Leon Morfitt, 31, previously denied affray and their cases were adjourned for trial this week.
But Bell admitted an alternative charge of causing a fear or provocation of violence at the start of the hearing, which Mr Dodds said was “acceptable” to the Crown.
Bell, of Front Street, Burnhope, County Durham, was bailed to return for sentence also following the outcome of proceedings against Mr Morfitt.
Mr Morfitt told the court he was was trying to act as a “peacemaker” in the melee, during which he said he could be seen stumbling in CCTV footage, but which the prosecution claimed was more of a "lunge" and missed punch.
A jury failed to reach a verdict after a three-day trial and was today (Wednesday January 22) discharged by Judge Christopher Prince.
Mr Morfitt, of Owton Manor Lane, Hartlepool, was bailed to return to court on February 7, when the prosecution will announce if it plans to seek a retrial in his case.
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