One punch Harrogate pub death was over ‘banter’ with friends

Leeds combined court centre.
Leeds combined court centre.
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An afternoon drinking with friends ended in tragedy after one ‘revenge’ punch killed a 51-year-old father, a court heard today.

Phillip Patrick Begley, 44, of Wellington Road, Bridlington, stood trial charged with assault causing actually bodily harm and manslaughter at Leeds Crown Court today (Monday, June 29).

The jury heard that Paul Morrison, 51, from Burton Leonard, and his friend Peter Bell, 43, from the York area had arranged to meet a group of men, most of whom knew one another from working at road maintenance company, Ringway, for drinks in Harrogate on November 1 last year.

Mr Morrison and Mr Bell arrived at the Alexandra pub at about 3pm and were joined at about 5pm by Begley and some friends who has been drinking in the Bilton Working Men’s Club for a couple of hours.

The group then headed to the Wetherspoons on Parliament Street.

Prosecuting Nicholas Askins said: “There was the usual good humoured exchanges between the men of the group, nothing but a bit of harmless fun. The banter became more raucous as the evening progressed, though no one was drunk.”

When inside the Winter Gardens Pub, the jury heard, Mr Morrison pushed Begley to the floor in an incident described as ‘horseplay’ by Mr Askins.

Shortly afterwards Mr Morrison and Mr Bell were having a cigarette in the beer garden when Begley approached the pair.

The court heard there was ‘an unremarkable exchange of banter’ after which Begley punched Mr Morrison hard in the face, causing him to fall backwards and hit his head on the base of a pillar.

When Mr Bell asked ‘What do you think you are doing?’, the court heard that Begley punched him too in the face, leaving him lying on the floor with a bleeding mouth.

Bystander, Joel Gadley was rolling a cigarette outside at the time and the court was told he had overheard Begley saying: “I used to be able to knock them out cold, don’t think I can do it these days,” before throwing the fatal punch.

The pair were taken to Harrogate District Hospital were it was discovered that Mr Morrison had suffered brain damage and had a heart attack as a result of the injury. He died three weeks later on November 20.

When interviewed by police in November 2014 Begley claimed that Mr Morrison had been goading him and calling him names before he grabbed him round the throat and slammed him to the ground in the pub and that Mr Morrison had threatened him and said he would ‘give him more of that in a minute’ when in the smoking area.

Mr Bell told the jury that Begley’s nickname ‘Ugly Phil’ was no worse than any other names for other members of the group and said: “It was just banter, just as lads are when they are together.”

Mr Askins told the jury of seven men and five women: “Begley had been left angry as a result of the horse play inside the pub and he took revenge by punching him with tragic consequences and no justification.”

The case continues.