Off-duty security guard punched man outside Union Rooms in self-defence, court told

An off-duty security guard has told a jury he punched a stranger outside a city pub because he feared his group was about to be attacked. Former Army recruit Stephen Edwards, aged 22, admitted knocking the man to the ground outside the Union Rooms after a row inside. But he said Alex Yates had quickly and aggressively moved towards him, his girlfriend and other friends in the early hours.

Edwards told Plymouth Crown Court that Mr Yates's girlfriend had just punched his own partner.

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The defendant said: "I was shocked and scared. I did not really know what was going on." He added later that he was "just panicking".

Edwards said: "I thought he was coming for us." The defendant, now working as a postman, said he never meant to hurt Mr Yates - who spent 15 to 20 minutes unconscious and later needed stitches to the back of his head and chin.

Stephen Edwards denies assault actual bodily harm, claiming he struck first in self-defence

Edwards, of Cressbrook Close, Mainstone, denied assaulting Mr Yates causing actual bodily harm at about 2am on April 23 last year. His friend and co-defendant George Pardew, aged 21, has already admitted the same offence by kicking Mr Yates on the floor moments after the punch.

Edwards said he had left school at the age of 16 to join the Army but was medically discharged with a shoulder injury just before the end of his training.

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He told the jury that he had been drinking on the night of the incident but said he was not affected by alcohol. Edwards said he noticed there was a "commotion" at the bar of the Union Rooms involving "shouting, swearing and pushing" involving his girlfriend Frankie Fullard and two other female friends. He added he was not involved in any trouble inside the pub and had no contact with Mr Yates - whom he saw being carried out by doormen.

Off-duty security guard punched man outside Union Rooms in self-defence, court toldThe Wetherspoons Union Rooms on Union Street

The defendant said he "just wanted to know what was going on" and followed as members of his own group went outside.

Edwards said he was talking to his girlfriend and friends when Mr Yates suddenly turned towards him and he punched the stranger fearing they would be attacked. He admitted he never saw Pardew kick Mr Yates on the ground and that he ran away, only to be caught by a security guard nearby.

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Edwards said he worked as a security guard for 42 Commando at Bickleigh Barracks for Corps Security. He added he had been suspended without pay after his arrest and was now working as a postman.

Miss Fullard, giving evidence for the defence, said she saw an "altercation" at the bar between her two friends and another woman.

Off-duty security guard punched man outside Union Rooms in self-defence, court toldStephen Edwards, aged 22, is on trial after a row broke out over pushing at the crowded bar of Union Street venue

She added a blonde woman - Mr Yates's girlfriend Roxanne Stoneman - started "shouting aggressively" and abusing her. But she admitted it was too noisy to pick out her words. Miss Fullard said she threw the contents of a cocktail jug over Miss Stoneman.

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She added she walked towards the door but was struck in the mouth from behind, cutting her lip.

The witness said she suspected Miss Stoneman had delivered the blow.

The trial continues on Monday, with prosecution and defence speeches and a summing up by Judge Paul Darlow before the jury retires.

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