Bognor man cleared of prison riot charges

A BOGNOR man involved in the Ford Prison riot trial has been found not guilty by a jury in Hove, today (Friday, February 10).

Judge Michael Lawson QC directed the jury sitting at the Hove Trial Centre to return a not guilty verdict for 25-year-old Paul Hadcroft, after he felt there was insufficient evidence to try the former prisoner, following the prosecution’s case.

Mr Hadcroft, of Renoir Court, Bognor, was found not guilty of prison mutiny, violent disorder and arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered, and was discharged from court, shortly afterwards.

Upon hearing the verdict, Mr Hadcroft shook hands with the remaining six men still accused of taking part in last year’s disorder at Ford, which caused an estimated £5m worth of damage.

During the proceedings, Judge Lawson explained that only one witness claimed to have seen Mr Hadcroft actively taking part in the mutiny and that under cross examination, the man – who was an inmate at the time of the riot – was unsure as to whether or not he had identified the correct person.

Judge Lawson said: “Just being there isn’t sufficient.

“The end position was that he could not be sure that the person he thought was there actually participated in the incident.”

He added: “Because of this, there’s no basis that any of the counts could survive.

“So in reviewing it I have come to the conclusion that it is a matter of law that the case against Mr Hadcroft fails.”

Last month, the court heard how the riot lasted more than 12 hours, during which time prisoners ran rampant through the category D institution, wrecking and setting buildings alight, causing an explosion in the accommodation block of the site, that forced terrified prisoners to flee for their lives.

Thomas Regan, 23, Lee Roberts, 41, Ryan Martin, 25, Lennie Franklin, 23, Carniel Francis, 25 and Roche Allen, all deny a charge of prison mutiny.

Five of the men have also pleaded not guilty to a charge of violent disorder. Regan has pleaded guilty to that charge.

Roberts, Regan, Martin, Franklin and Allen also deny a further charge of arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Roberts has pleaded guilty to a simple charge of arson.

The case is expected to resume on Monday (February 13) when Roberts is expected to take the stand.