A man has walked free from court at the end of a five day jury trial where he was accused of launching a knife assault.
Sydney Peter James Johnson, known as James, was admonished by sheriff Philip Mann after a jury found him guilty of assault by punching Andrew Smith at the Brae Hotel on 20th January last year.
The jury returned a not proven verdict against a claim within the same complaint that he had brandished a knife and stabbed Mr Smith on the body to his severe injury or danger of life.
The trial started on Monday when Johnson also denied three other charges – namely that he was in possession of a metal pipe, had a knife, and tried to dispose of the items to conceal his guilt.
But those other charges were dropped as the trial progressed, leaving Johnson facing just one complaint.
The incident happened after Mr Smith’s partner, Charlotte Jeffery, said she was leaving Mr Smith because he had been abusive towards her.
A meeting had been scheduled at the Brae Hotel to allow Ms Jeffery the chance to have some of her belongings returned to her after the split.
The court had heard how Mr Smith launched an attack on Johnson at the Northern Lights Bar within the hotel.
The jury was told the fracas later spilled out into the car park, where Ms Jeffery had her face “sliced with a blade” by Mr Smith.
Procurator fiscal depute Saima Rasheed highlighted several points which she said could result in a conviction, namely motive, the physical altercation, injury, the knife, admission and a police interview.
“These … points on their own don’t amount to enough but when you take these together they provide a very compelling case against the accused.”
In his summing up, defence agent Tommy Allan told jurors. “Did you see anybody in that witness box say that they saw Mr Johnson stab Mr Smith? Because I didn’t. Did you see anybody say that he had a knife – absolutely, that he had a knife?
“There’s not even corroborated evidence that Mr Johnson had a knife.”
He added: “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.”
Following today’s majority verdict, Mr Allan said Johnson had faced “considerable provocation”. He said Johnson had co-operated with the court and his behaviour had been “exemplary”.
Sheriff Philip Mann admonished Johnson for the offence. “Clearly there was very considerable provocation involved here,” he said.
“I don’t have to go into it here but Miss Jeffery was subjected to a very vicious and violent attack. It’s not surprising, in my view, that someone like yourself intervened to save her. It would be punishment enough that there is a conviction at sheriff and jury level.”