Letter from Mark Barnsley to ‘The Star Newspaper" in Sheffield

21/8/97

Dear Sir,

I write concerning the recent coverage of my case.

As I have stoically put up with your misinformed and hysterical reporting, (not to mention what has frequently amounted to personal abuse), over the past 3 years I hope that you will allow me this opportunity to put the record straight on a few matters. The public have regretably been provided with very few of the actual facts of my case by this newspaper, but all of the information I am about to disclose can quite easily be checked against the public record.

Firstly, while I very much regret that Darren Thursfield was injured at all, I would like to put the record straight as to what those injuries actually were.

Mr Thursfield was examined at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital on the 8th of June 1994, (the date of 'The Pomona Incident'), by the Senior House Officer, Ralph William White. Mr White described Thursfield's injuries in his Police Statement, (Page 154 in the Depositions), as follows: 1) A 3cm long, 2cm deep wound to the right side of the abdomen. 2) A 1cm long superficial cut to the left forearm.

While I have always expressed considerable regret that Mr Thursfield and his friends were injured at all, none of them have ever expressed any regret whatsoever for the injuries sustained by myself that day. These included a 3cm long head wound caused by a bottle or heavy glass, a broken nose, a 3cm long cut over my left eye, broken and damaged teeth, a 3cm long knife wound to my right hand, one or more broken ribs, and in fact I had injuries covering my entire body.

These injuries were described by Mr N Pyrgos, Consultant Accident Surgeon at Lincoln County Hospital, in his statement of the 29th of June 1995. Mr Pyrgos' conclusion reads as follows: "In my opinion Mr Mark Barnsley sustained injuries to his head, nose, left eyebrow, chest, right hand, right kneee, and probably other parts of his body during the episode of 8th June 1994."

After examining me on behalf of the Prosecution, Mr Alan Crosby, Consultant Surgeon at the Hallamshire Hospital, agreed with Mr Pyrgos' view, concluding as follows: "Mr Mark Barnsley sustained injury to his head, face, chest, right hand, and right knee during the episode of 8th June 1994."

Perhaps Mr Thursfield can explain how these injuries occurred. Or why if it was the case that I attacked him and his numerous friends, I was pursued over 150 yards during which they punched and kicked me throughout.

In Court Mr Thursfield said that he had merely approached myself and his friend Paul Sheperd, who were in a "tussle" in the car-park of The Pomona, saying "There's no need for any trouble." He says that he didn't have physical contact with either of us, but that at this point, though he didn't actually see it, he was stabbed.

However, Mr Thursfield's fanciful account is supported by no-one.

Paul Sheperd, for example, says in his Police Statement, (Page 1 in the Depositions): "I faced him, (Mark Barnsley), punched him a few times. I must admit I went 'apeshit'...I know at this time I was joined by 'Big' (Andrew Simpson) and at least one other, he being Mark Thomas, and it turned into a bit of a free for all, they had obviously come to my assistance."

Another of Thursfield's friends, Fiona Duncan, described the scene in her Police Statement, (page 33 in the Depositions), stating as follows: "Paul (Sheperd) got up and chased after the man (Mark Barnsley) who had started to go away. Also Sara (Fairclough), Jane (Illes), Mark Thomas, Andrew Simpson, and Darren (Thursfield) all got up and ran after Paul. I don't know if they were going to hit the man or stop Paul."

A number of independent Prosecution witnesses described how they saw me attacked by the students, but not one single witness saw me stab anyone.

Among the independent witnesses was a builder, Simon Woods, who was working on a building site overlooking The Pomona. In his Police Statement, (Page 87 in the Depositions), he states as follows: "I saw a bunch of males and females who appeared to be fighting. I saw several of them attacking one man. The view I had was clear and unobstructed for around 10 to 15 seconds before the man fell to the floor."

Describing Thursfield's involvement, Mr Woods goes on to say: "As he (Mark Barnsley) ran off another man who appeared to be a student ran after him shouting. At this stage he was carrying a glass."

What was Thursfield shouting? Well according to Francis Holsman's enlightening Police Statement, (which was not disclosed to the Jury), it wasn't, "There's no need for any trouble", but rather, "Come back here you fucking bastard."

A careful examination of all the evidence can lead to no other conclusion than that it was Darren Thursfield and his friends who attacked me during the episode of 8th of June 1994, not the other way round.

In one of your recent pieces about me Thursfield was quoted as saying, "He had the knife in his pocket..." This is not supported by one single witness, least of all by Thursfield and his friends. Thursfield states quite clearly in his Police Statement, "I didn't see a knife."

Paul Sheperd agrees: "I didn't see a knife at all."

As does Mark Thomas: "Throughout the incident I saw no knife, weapon, or similar produced."

Sara Fairclough, another of Thursfield's friends, who described in Court how they had both chased me, said in her Police Statement: "I learnt a knife could have been the cause of the injuries, but I didn't see one."

Joanne Leddra, another student friend: "I didn't see a knife at all."

Thursfield hadn't come "Straight from an exam", as he states in The Star. According to his own evidence, (given at 10.35am on the 6th of July 1995), he had finished his exams several weeks earlier. Not that I'm suggesting that Mr Thursfield himself produced the knife, (though I don't rule it out completely), I think it is more likely that it was produced by one of a number of his friends who fled the scene prior to the arrival of the Police. These people are named by a number of witnesses, but despite requests from the Defence, and an undertaking to the Court, the Police have steadfastly failed to locate them. In highlighting when Mr Thursfield took his exams, I am simply demonstrating how easily he finds it to neglect the truth.

"Why would we have had a knife?" Thursfield asks. I don't know, but given the circumstances in which it was produced I can think of only one reason. His friend Andrew 'Big' Simpson, (all 6ft 5 1/2 inches of him), is certainly no stranger to violence judging from the prominent knife scar he carried on his neck a long time before the 8th of June 1994. Nor is Simpson a stranger to abuse and intimidation, given his conviction for making obscene telephone calls.

The issue of the knife might in any case be considered irrelevent, since contrary to The Star I was actually found 'not guilty' on Counts 1,4, and 5 of the Section 18 wounding charges that I faced in Court, (the Jury returned 'guilty' verdicts to alternative lesser offences with which I was never charged). Surely if the Jury had believed that the knife was mine they would have returned a 'guilty' verdict on Count 1 of the charges, if not all of them.

Mr Thursfield though has a bad memory, something which he frequently used as an excuse during the trial to cover the many discrepencies and inconsistencies in his evidence. Indeed he said in an interview broadcast on BBC Radio Sheffield on the day of my conviction, (and shortly after giving evidence to the contrary), that he could not really remember what had happened at all. This is hardly surprising considering that he drank 6 pints of strong beer in the 3 hours prior to the incident at The Pomona.

Additionally, his blood, which was examined by Dr A R W Forrest, a Clinical Pathologist at the Hallamshire Hospital, contained cannabis, as did that of his friends Illes, Shperd, and Simpson.

When asked about their use of cannabis during the trial, all of the above claimed, on oath, that they had never taken it. Dr Forrest however says that it could not have got into their blood through 'passive smoking', and that they must each have consumed at least 1-2 'joints'.

Nonetheless, displaying the sort of bias he showed throughout, the trial judge ruled the cannabis evidence, together with the fact that the students had lied on oath, inadmissible. It was kept from the Jury.

This was not all that was wittheld. As in many miscarriages of justice, a great deal of evidence was withheld, not only from the Jury, but also from the Defence. Myself and my solicitors have spent the past 3 years trying to obtain this.

As for my 12 year sentence, one only has to leaf through a newspaper, even The Star, to see just how extraordinary it is. This would be so even if I had been convicted on all 5 counts. The sentence alone shows the trial up for the farce it was.

On the 5th of November 1996 the Court of Appeal upheld a 5 year sentence imposed on a man who, during a fight outside a pub, produced a butterfly knife, killed one man, and badly injured 3 others. It was stated during the hearing, (R v Latham), that in recent years, for manslaughter offences resulting from the deliberate carrying of a knife in a public place, with a view to it being used as a weapon, a sentence tariff of 4 to 7 years had become established.

Closer to home we need only look at the Darnall chip-shop stabbings of January the 1st 1995, (R v Joel), during which 3 people were stabbed, and which resulted in a probation order.

Furthermore, how does my 12 year sentence compare to the sentences of 18 months to 2 years imposed on a gang of Cardiff students, (R v Groom, Vodden, and Willey), who last year inflicted a viscious beating on an elderly di abled man, (who later died), and also upon another man, for no other reason than that they were "Celebrating their exams" and wanted "a laugh". How similar this last comment is to that of Paul Sheperd, who when asked to explain why he had chased me said: "I have no idea why I chased him, whether from frustration or for a laugh. I just went after him."

Everything that has ever been written about myself or The Pomona Incident in The Star has been a complete travesty of the truth. Darren Thursfield knows that, as do his friends, and I hope that one day one of them has the decency to admit their real part in the incident. On June the 8th 1994 I went out for a quiet drink with my baby daughter and a family friend, and was abused, attacked, nearly killed, and then fitted up. My life has been destroyed.

Despite the misinformation disseminated in The Star, not to mention the worst form of cliche journalism, I am supported by many people who have bothered to find out the true facts. With their help I will continue to fight for justice.

MARK BARNSLEY

21st August 1997

Anyone with half a brain knows, you can never trust the media, however the Sheffield Star seems to have gone to severe lengths to be more creative than most. In Mark Barnsley's case their reporting was little more than personal abuse and sensationalist gutter journalism.

In a nutshell, the Sheffield Star portrayed the students as heroes and Mark as some kind of knife wielding maniac. Such was their research of the case that they even failed to accurately report the verdict! The Sheffield Star are little more than the mouthpiece of the police and Crown Prosecution Service.

What is still significant is that the Sheffield Star has yet to correct any of their mistakes, inaccuracies and blatant lies. They have refused to print any form of reply to their coverage from either Mark Barnsley himself or any of his supporters.

Many supporters have also failed to get any letters regarding the case printed in their local newspapers, even those not directly connected to the Star's coverage. Call it paranoia but could there be a connection between the fact that the owners of the Sheffield Star, Regional Independent Media, also own many of the newspapers that have refused to print letters about Mark Barnsley's current injustice?

The first Monday of every month sees a mass phone-in to the Sheffield Star to let them know we care about miscarriages of justice and gives us an opportunity to ask them a few questions that they have so far refused to answer. They can be contacted on (0114) 276666. You can also write to the editor at: The Star, York Street, Sheffield.

Some questions to ask the Sheffield Star:

* Why have they failed to correctly report the verdict?

* Where is their evidence for stating Mark Barnsley was a 'combat enthusiast'?

* Why have the Sheffield Star used quotes from individuals stating Mark went 'beserk' even though they were not witnesses to the incident?

* Why did they claim Mark recorded a list of the students injuries, when the only injuries he recorded were those of his own?

* Why have the Sheffield Star claimed the students injured were 'maimed' and disembowelled' ? Anyone bothering to look at the evidence would see what absolute nonsense the Sheffield Star's 'reporting' of the case is.