Cleared doorman wants to rebuild his life

Sam EmanuelA doorman cleared of the unlawful killing of a Norwich father outside a nightclub in the city centre has told how he wants to rebuild his life and continue working in the same role.Sam Emanuel

A doorman cleared of the unlawful killing of a Norwich father outside a nightclub in the city centre has told how he wants to rebuild his life and continue working in the same role.

Steven Hopkins, 28, of Woodward Road, Norwich, was tried at Norwich Crown Court after pleading not guilty to the charge of manslaughter which related to the death of Phillip Ward after he was pushed over outside the Chicago Rock Caf� in Prince of Wales Road in May last year.

But yesterday, the jury of six men and six women returned a verdict of not guilty, bringing an end Mr Hopkins' ordeal.

The verdict was met with gasps of disbelief and tears from Mr Ward's family, who said they had been 'totally let down' by the decision.

Although the fact that Mr Ward had died as a result of Mr Hopkins' actions was never in question, it was a matter of debate as to whether or not Mr Hopkins was acting in self defence and whether he used reasonable force in ejecting Mr Ward from the club.

The court had head that Mr Hopkins pushed Mr Ward, 46, as he was leaving the Chicago Rock Caf� in Prince of Wales Road, after a night out with his wife and friends.

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Mr Ward fell backwards and hit his head, suffering a fatal head injury from which he never regained consciousness.

The jury heard the incident lasted no more than two or three minutes but the end result was the death of Mr Ward, from Drayton, near Norwich.

Solicitor Simon Nicholls said: 'On behalf of Steven Hopkins I would like to express his grateful thanks to the jury for finding him not guilty in what was a very difficult case.

'Someone lost their life as a result of Steven's actions and that is something he is going to have to live with for the rest of his life.

'Anyone who understands the difficult job door supervisors have must appreciate how terrible the last five months have been for Steven. He was married only two weeks before this happened. It has been a nightmare for him.

'The decision of the jury to find him not guilty has gone a little way to giving him some sort of closure on the matter and both him and his wife Rachael are incredibly relieved.

'It is understandable that Mr Ward's family feel anger and bitterness towards him. But 12 ordinary people have heard the evidence against him and found him not guilty.'

Mr Hopkins confirmed his intention to continue working as a door supervisor.

But Mr Ward's wife Mandy said: 'How do you tell a four and six year old that their dad's killer got away with it? We feel totally let down,' and her eldest brother Bob Connor added: 'We are devastated at the outcome of today's trial. Phillip's family and friends have been dealt a life sentence from which they can never be released.

'In respect of Phillip's memory we would like to have it emphasised that never, at any time, did he show any aggression to another person and we would like to thank both the police and the family liaison officers for all their hard work to bring this case to conclusion.

'Mandy and the rest of Phillip's family and friends would like their privacy to be respected to continue to grieve and rebuild their shattered lives.'

The trial has thrown the amount of force used by door staff when ejecting revellers into the spotlight.

During the trial, Christopher Morgan, prosecuting, showed a Norwich Crown Court jury CCTV footage of the incident and said: 'There is no dispute in this case that Steven Hopkins killed Mr Ward.' He said that Hopkins had 'no right' to eject Mr Ward in the manner he did, and said that Mr Hopkins was a registered doorman and would have been trained in the correct way to eject people.

Steve Barber, owner of Norwich Security Specialists Ltd, which provides door supervisors to some of the clubs on Prince of Wales Road, said that door staff had changed their attitude since Mr Hopkins was charged and were now being more careful about the amount of force they used, regardless of the outcome of the trial.

He said: 'If he had been found guilty, it would have opened up a massive can of worms and meant that door staff would have been worried about touching anyone, so might as well not be there. Although I am sad for Phillip's family, it is the best outcome for the profession.'