A man has been cleared of unlawfully wounding a prison custody officer after slashing his own throat when given a jail sentence at Kirklees Magistrates’ Court .
Gary James Bell accepted he cut the hand of Neil Barnard in the incident on July 31, 2014 but told Leeds Crown Court it was accidental while he was trying to kill himself.
Bell, 22 of Sycamore Court, Milnsbridge , Huddersfield was unanimously found not guilty by a jury on the charge of unlawful wounding. The prosecution claimed his actions were reckless.
After the verdict Judge Tom Bayliss QC said the Crown Prosecution Service and police had been right to bring the case to court for a jury to decide on the evidence.
The trial heard Bell had just been sentenced by a district judge to 16 weeks in prison for common assault and criminal damage when GEOAmey staff went to take him into custody from the witness box in courtroom two at Huddersfield court.
He later told police he had smuggled a Stanley knife blade into court hidden in Rizla papers inside his tin of tobacco intending to kill himself if he was sent to jail saying he would rather be dead than go to prison.
He told the jury he suffered from depression and had self-harmed in the past. When one of the three officers in court told him to put his hands out so she could handcuff him: “I said ‘no’ it was like then that I started going for my jugular.”
“All I was trying to do was kill myself, what other people were doing I wasn’t focusing on that. I could see people had hold of me while I was cutting myself but that was it. I was just going for my neck over and over.”
He said he had “tunnel vision” and had not thought of the risk to anybody else, the injury to Mr Barnard who was among those trying to stop what was happening was accidental. “I was aiming for the jugular I never thought anybody would have a chance to intervene, I thought I would bleed out.”
Bell told the jury he was not aware Mr Barnard was behind him and only found out he had injured him after he had been finally restrained on the floor. He said he immediately apologised.
One security guard had described Bell’s neck as opening like a zip after his self-inflicted injuries. Bell told the jury he now had multiple scars on his throat as a result of what he had done to himself having had 47 staples put in his neck in hospital to close his wounds.
The jury heard Mr Barnard was off work five and a half months after he was cut on the middle and index fingers of his left hand which had severed a tendon affecting his grip.
At one stage they were going to operate but hoped it would knit together. He had a splint for nine and a half weeks and his finger was still not completely straight.
Bell told the jury: “Thank you very much” as he left court.