Barton cleared of criminal damage charge
Premiership footballer Joey Barton was cleared today of criminal damage.
The Newcastle United midfielder, 25, was found not guilty at Liverpool Magistrates' Court of vandalising a taxi after a night out in March last year.
The player, who was last week jailed for six months for admitting assault and affray, left court to return to prison after a half-day trial.
The Crown alleged that the player was with his cousin Joshua Wilson, 19, in the taxi in the early hours of March 4 when things turned nasty at a McDonald's in Liverpool.
Prosecutor Robert Jansen said when the driver, Michael Kay, refused to queue at a drive-through, Barton became aggressive.
A row broke out, Mr Kay refused to take the men on to their destination and Barton ripped out the cabbie's radio, it was claimed.
But the fingerprints on the smashed screen were not Barton's and today his cousin admitted in court that he had caused the damage.
It took magistrates just 15 minutes to acquit the former Manchester City player.
Hearing the verdict, Barton, who is serving six months in jail for assault and affray, said: 'Thank you,' and smiled at his father.
Two wholly different stories were told in court.
Mr Kay claimed after receiving £25 up front from Joshua Wilson he was happy to take the men and their girlfriends to McDonald's on Edge Lane.
He said he would wait while the men ordered at a serving hatch but not waste time in the vehicle queue.
Mr Kay, who said he did not recognise the troubled footballer until colleagues explained who he was later, said he gave £15 back to Mr Wilson and asked the men to get out.
He said the girls got out but the men refused so he drove them to a nearby police station which was closed.
Barton and his cousin insisted they wanted a full refund, said Mr Kay, and began smashing the plastic partition.
The cabbie radioed a 'Yellow One' for help from other drivers, at which point the attack allegedly escalated.
'He grabbed the part just over my left shoulder,' said Mr Kay. 'I heard a crack, turned around and he was yanking and yanking and it smashed.
'He grabbed hold of me, he was strangling me.'
Mr Kay and three other drivers who gave evidence claimed Barton and Mr Wilson, who is unemployed, managed to get out of the cab and run off.
Stuart Driver QC, for Barton, said Mr Kay gave no refund and when the men refused to get out a 'Yellow One' was made - and everyone understood its significance.
It was understood as code, he said, for taxi drivers converging to attack problematic passengers.