Column: Trial was a just a criminal waste of money
One of the most heart-breaking sights had to be 83 year-old farmer Kenneth Hugill, who wept openly on court steps after being cleared of GBH. He’d been put on trial after shooting a convicted burglar he thought was stealing diesel from his farm. But the jury took just 24 minutes to clear him of the charge, which has so far cost him £30,000 to fund his own defence. The pensioner, who has had two hip replacements and a heart-bypass operation, was arrested and fingerprinted after he shot Richard Stables, 44, in the foot outside his isolated farmhouse in Wilberfoss, near York. But a common-sense jury at Hull Crown Court cleared him. Following the trial, his family said the farm had been surrounded by armed police and a helicopter after police wrongly believed they were holding a hostage more than 15 hours after the shooting. This is even more bizarre given the fact it was Mr Hugill’s son who alerted police. Afterwards, his family criticised both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service for their decision to prosecute an 83 year-old man defending his own home. Mr Hugill said: “I pulled the trigger because I thought that car was going to kill me.” He told the court he was ‘petrified’ when the Land Rover had ‘revved up’ without lights and set off towards him in the early hours. He fired two shots – one to the side of the car and another in the air - to frighten the occupants away. But Stables was hit in the foot. He was taken to hospital by his friend Adrian Barron, a seasoned criminal with convictions for burglary and violence. Mr Stables suffered serious injuries but survived and gave evidence as a prosecution witness. Mr Hugill, who had never been in trouble with the law, was charged and put on trial. The prosecution argued “whether it was reasonable for Mr Hugill to act the way he did”. The court heard how Stables, who said he'd been lamping, gave three different versions of how he’d suffered his shotgun injuries, eventually admjust. But the police and CPS decided there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the 83 year-old, who had to hobble into the witness box. In my book, it is the police and CPS who should hang their heads in shame. Surely our already over-stretched justice system could be put to better use trying to keep those who actually pose a real risk to the public off the streets.