A Chesterfield man who was jailed for the manslaughter of former soldier Chris Henchliffe has lost his Court of Appeal bid for freedom.
Benjamin Edwards, 23, swung a punch at Mr Henchliffe outside the Pomegranate Theatre in Corporation Street, Chesterfield, during the early hours of July 3, 2016 – following a row over a spilt drink.
Caught off-guard following another altercation, Mr Henchliffe fell to the ground, smashing his head and sustaining a catastrophic injury.
The 26-year-old died in hospital nine days after the incident.
Edwards, formerly of Fieldview Place, admitted swinging the punch – but claimed he did so in defence of a friend he believed Mr Henchliffe was about to attack.
But the prosecution said that Mr Henchliffe was a threat to nobody by the time Edwards got involved.
Edwards, who ran off after the incident, was found guilty of manslaughter by a Nottingham Crown Court jury last May and jailed for five-and-a-half years.
‘Trial was not fair’
Citing ‘important’ evidence, his lawyers took his case to the Court of Appeal in London today in a bid to overturn the conviction.
His barrister, Adrian Langdale, said the trial had not been fair because the jury was not told of Mr Henchliffe’s previous convictions for violence.
He had been convicted and locked up as a 14-year-old for GBH and given a community sentence in 2016 for his part in a pub fight, he said.
That evidence could have boosted Edwards’ defence, said Mr Langdale, as it would have shown Mr Henchliffe could be violent.
But rejecting the appeal, Lord Justice Holroyde said the trial judge had been right not to include the evidence of Mr Henchliffe’s past.
‘Compelling evidence against Edwards’
The jury could see from the CCTV ‘a very strong inference’ that Mr Henchliffe had ‘aggressive intent’ at the start of the incident, the court heard.
He had moved towards Edwards’ friend, James Wisternoff, but a bouncer had stepped between them to separate them.
The only issue was whether he was still acting aggressively after that when Edwards threw his punch.
Kicking out the appeal, the judge, sitting with Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing and Judge David Aubrey QC, said evidence of the victim’s past was rightly excluded.
And, even it had been included, the evidence of Mr Henchliffe’s previous convictions would not have made any difference to the outcome of the trial, the court heard.
“We are of the view that the admission of that evidence could not possibly have had any effect on the verdict of the jury,” he said.
“The CCTV footage provided clear and compelling evidence against Edwards.
“It showed plainly that Mr Henchliffe was not moving towards Mr Wisternoff when Edwards threw a punch at him.
“His conduct after the incident positively undermined his own defence.
“This appeal against conviction fails and is dismissed.”
Grieving mother speaks after case
Dad-of-one Mr Henchliffe, who lived on Maynard Road, Chesterfield, served with the Yorkshire Regiment and completed a tour of Afghanistan.
After the case, his mother Yvonne Henchliffe said: “I am relieved my family can finally grieve.
“All I ever wanted was justice.”