East Lothian crime: Fitness coach Paul McKenzie acquitted of assault on off-duty detective Greg McBeth
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Paul McKenzie was alleged to have assaulted off-duty Detective Constable Greg McBeth by striking him to the head whereby the officer fell and struck his head on the ground leaving him with a severe brain injury.
Mr McKenzie was facing an allegation of assaulting Mr McBeth to his severe injury, permanent disfigurement and danger to his life. The 37-year-old was also said to have assaulted James Steadman by striking him to the head during the same incident at Blawearie Road in Tranent, East Lothian, in the early hours of August 28 last year.
The accused man admitted punching both men but claimed he was acting in self-defence after stating he and his wife had both been aggressively grabbed by the two men first. It was claimed in court that Mr McKenzie and his wife Clare had become involved with the pair after allegations Mr Steadman had been seen to be acting “inappropriately” with a woman who was a relative.
Mr McKenzie stood trial over five days at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last week and walked free from the dock on Monday, November 27, after a jury returned majority not guilty verdicts on both assault charges.
Giving evidence, Mr McBeth said he was a serving police officer and told the court he was left unconscious after he struck his head on a roadway after being punched to the face by Mr McKenzie. The officer, who has 20 years service, was rushed to hospital where he had to undergo life-saving surgery and spent 12 days in a coma.
The father-of-two told the court he spent eight weeks in hospital recovering and was subsequently forced to take nine months off work to recover.
The officer said he had been golfing with Mr Steadman earlier that day and after a meal with friends the pair had been dropped off at Ross High rugby club in Tranent by his wife at around 11.30pm. He said he remembered speaking to people in the club but had no memory of anything further until he woke up in hospital two days later.
Mr Steadman, 51, told the court he and Mr McBeth spent the evening “having a laugh and a chat” with a group of women at the rugby club and left with two of them at closing time at around 1am. The finance manager said he was walking near to the club when he became aware Mr McBeth was lying on the ground unconscious after hearing a female scream.
He told the trial he did not see the assault but one of the group he was with told him Mr McKenzie was the culprit. Mr Steadman said: “I was in shock because his eyes were closed and he was making gurgling and snoring noises. It was quite a horrific scene. The accused was across the road with his head in his hands and was with his wife or partner.”
Mr Steadman added he also suffered a burst lip during the incident but told the court he could not recall how that had happened. During cross examination from defending lawyer Nigel Beaumont, Mr Steadman denied an accusation of acting “inappropriately” with one of the women which it was claimed was why Mr McKenzie and his wife had become involved.
Mr Beaumont said the woman Mr Steadman was with was a relative of Mr McKenzie’s wife and she had stepped in to take her home because she was concerned at her being with the man in a drunken state. Mr Beaumont said at that point Mr Steadman had become aggressive and grabbed hold of Mr McKenzie’s wife’s arm.
The solicitor said Mr McBeth then took hold of Mr McKenzie’s arm which resulted in the fitness coach acting in self-defence and punching the officer to the face in a bid to free himself. He said McKenzie, of Tranent, had also then punched Mr Steadman to the face to free his wife from the man’s grip.
The court was also shown blurry CCTV taken from a street camera showing the alleged assault but the footage was inconclusive. The court was told following the incident Mr McKenzie had himself phoned 999 and spent nine minutes speaking to the ambulance service as he and his wife tended to DC McBeth.
It was claimed Mr Steadman continued to be “aggressive” towards Mr McKenzie and his wife as they helped his friend which the court was told was recorded on the emergency phone call.
Following four days of evidence, the jury took less than an hour to return majority not guilty verdicts on both charges and Sheriff Kenneth Campbell KC told Mr McKenzie he was free to leave the dock.