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Jury says Brae stabbing “not proven”

A FORMER fisherman from Shetland walked free after a five day trial at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Friday having been cleared of stabbing a man in a violent fight outside a local hotel.

Sydney Peter James Johnson, of Clothister, Sullom, had denied brandishing a knife and stabbing his victim in the Brae Hotel car park on 20 January last year.

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The jury decided this charge was not proven, however they did find Johnson (known as James) guilty of assaulting Andrew Smith by punching him in the chest, for which he was admonished.

The trial heard that 22 year old Johnson had gone to the hotel with Smith’s ex partner Charlotte Jeffery, to have some of her belongings returned after the pair had separated.

However when the meeting took place in the hotel’s Northern Lights bar, Smith attacked Johnson and then dragged his ex-partner outside to a waiting car and slashed her face with a blade.

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One witness, Shaun Hurson, said that he and Johnson rushed outside to stop Smith from kidnapping the woman, and both punched him.

Smith was later found lying in a pool of his own blood, accusing Johnson of stabbing him.

Procurator fiscal Saima Rasheed said CCTV footage showed Johnson pulling a knife out of his back pocket and showing it to his friends, but Johnson denied ever having a knife with him.

Rasheed told the jury there was enough circumstantial evidence to convict Johnson of the stabbing.

However defence agent Tommy Allan retorted that nobody had given evidence saying that they saw Johnson stab Smith.

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“There’s not even corroborated evidence that Mr Johnson had a knife,” he said.

“If you do have any doubt, it’s your duty to give the benefit of that doubt to Mr Johnson. You must do that. The law requires it and justice demands it.”

After the jury returned their verdict, Sheriff Philip Mann said it was clear that there was “very considerable provocation involved here” and he was not surprised Johnson had intervened to save the woman.

“It would be punishment enough that there is conviction at sheriff and jury level,” the sheriff said.

Johnson had also denied being in possession of a metal pipe and a knife without reasonable excuse, and trying to defeat the ends of justice by hiding the weapons. These charges were dropped by the Crown on the fourth day of the trial.

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