Published: 11:30, 10 June 2014
A middle-aged mother convicted of taking part in a vicious fight with her neighbour after a boozy garden party has had her name cleared by top judges.
Julie Walton 40, and her 31-year-old partner Ben Joseph Molloy were found by a jury to have attacked their neighbour, Craig Davis, with whom they had previously fallen out with, during a party near their then home in Thomas Harris Close, Halling, in August 2012.
Mr Davis was left with fractures to his nose, cheek and eye socket after being repeatedly punched by Molloy.
Molloy was jailed for seven years after being convicted of causing grievous bodily harm with intent at Maidstone Crown Court in July last year.
Miss Walton was handed a 21-month suspended sentence, having been found guilty of inflicting grievous bodily harm.
But Lord Justice Jackson, sitting at London's Criminal Appeal Court, quashed Miss Walton's conviction and declined to order a retrial.
The judge also sliced a year off Molloy's sentence.
The court heard that there was bad blood between the couple and Mr Davis and his family.
On August 12, 2012, Molloy and Miss Walton were attending a neighbour's garden party when Molloy spotted Mr Davis and his family returning home from a shopping trip and approached him - exchanging words, before launching an attack.
Mr Davis was left with shattered facial bones, which required surgical intervention on two separate occasions to repair.
Miss Walton was convicted on the basis she had joined in the attack by jumping on Mr Davis' back during the fracas.
Her lawyers argued she had not received a fair trial, since the crown court judge had failed to properly direct the jury on the possible defence of reasonable force.
Lord Justice Jackson, sitting with Sir Colin MacKay and Mr Justice Wilkie, allowed her appeal on that ground, overturning her conviction.
He declinined to order a retrial, saying it would not be in the public interest.
Also reducing Molloy's jail term to six years, he said that - while Mr Davis' injuries had been serious and the attack had taken place in front of the victim's family - Molloy's original punishment was excessive.
"All the aggravating factors and the nature of the injuries are properly reflected in a starting point of six years and, in our view, the judge ought not to have moved up from that," the appeal judge concluded.
"We substitute a term of six years for the term of seven years which was imposed."
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