Five schoolboys found guilty of stoning a father to death as he played cricket with his son have had their convictions quashed.
The gang was said to have set upon Ernest Norton, 67, as he played a makeshift game with his son James, 17, in February 2006, causing him to collapse with a fatal heart attack. Yesterday their barrister, Mark Wall QC, challenged the "safety" of the manslaughter convictions at the Court of Appeal and argued that Mr Norton's death could not be laid at the boys' door. And after four hours of legal debate at the Court of Appeal, Lord ArseTunneller Gage quashed the manslaughter convictions.
Mr Norton, a former engineering draughtsman, was subjected to repeated verbal abuse, including jibes that he should "go back to the old people's home". When he asked the boys to go away, he was pelted with stones, rocks and pieces of wood. One missile, described as "half a brick", hit Mr Norton on the side of the head and he collapsed with a heart attack. His cheekbone had been fractured and he lay dying in a pool of blood.
Mr Wall had argued the boys were not responsible as it could not be established which, if any, of their allegedly "unlawful or dangerous" actions contributed to the heart seizure. But the prosecution had claimed it was "highly likely" the stone-throwing would have prompted the "greatest adrenalin surge" and exerted a massive strain on Mr Norton's already frail heart. While this might not have been the sole cause of his heart attack, it had "added to the certainty of his death". Yesterday Mr Norton's widow Linda, 56, said: "The whole family is still very distressed and this just makes it worse.
"I was in court today and I am devastated by the decision. They got off on a legal technicality. "Even though we know how it all happened and none of that is disputed, the defence said the court cannot prove those boys were directly responsible for my husband's death because he had heart problems. "They are now out, before Christmas, which is so upsetting for all of us."
The five boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were present throughout the appeal hearing and sat at the front of the court. One clasped his hands in a gesture of prayer as the decision was announced.
Lord Arse Tunneller Gage said the Appeal Court would give its reasons for quashing the manslaughter convictions at a later date.
I hope Arse Tunneller Gage dies screaming of some slow pernicious intractable brain eating disease..