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Thursday, 18 December 2008
Ex professional rugby league player Mark Webster had drunk more than 10 pints when he knocked Jason Hale unconscious with a single blow
Ex professional rugby league player Mark Webster had drunk more than 10 pints when he knocked Jason Hale unconscious with a single blow before stamped on him. Mr Hale's relatives sobbed in court yesterday as they watched CCTV of the WakefieldPrison officer deliver the blow which left him with devastating brain injuries. Webster, 38, was jailed for four years after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the attack outside the Black Sawn, Normanton, near Wakefield. Judge James Stewart told him: "You were at the time of this incident a serving prison officer. "That means you were expected to be able to deal with your fellow man who misbehaves in a violent way." He added: "But on this day you were drunk. Drinking in excess disinhibits and causes people to behave in a way in which they would not ordinarily behave. "Binge drinking is the scourge of our society. Town centres become no-go areas. "Frequently violence erupts outside public houses as indeed on this night." Leeds Crown Court heard how Webster, a former Wakefield Wildcats prop, had played for amateur side Normanton Knights in a Challenge Cup play-off match against East Hull on the day of the incident. Mr Hale, 37, of Netheroyd, Streethouse, was among a group of fans who joined players drinking at the club after the match in the early afternoon before moving onto nearby pubs.
Jonathan Devlin, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court how there was an initial incident inside the Black Swan when a fight erupted after a racist remark was made to an Asian woman. Mr Hale had hit his head on a table during the trouble and was trampled on inside the pub. The court heard how someone had also punched Webster during the incident as he tried to act as peacemaker, causing him to lose his composure. Mr Devlin said Mr Hale, who was also heavily drunk and had taken cocaine, suffered his fatal injuries outside the pub when he raised his hands to Webster in a "mock fight" gesture. The barrister said his behaviour could not have been construed as a aggressive because he was so drunk. Mr Devlin said: "Without any warning the defendant then struck Jason Hale to the head with a blow. The force of which rendered him unconscious immediately."
After the footage was played in court he added: "What is clear is that the defendant aimed a blow with his foot at Jason Hale as he lay on the ground. The prosecution say he was unconscious and quite clearly defenceless and unable to tense himself or prevent injury from the blow." Mr Hale suffered a fractured skull as well as damage to internal organs from the stamp. His life support machine was switched off the next day, on February 25 this year, as his injuries were inoperable.The court heard the how his death had devastated his family, including his two teenage children, partner and stepson.Simon Bourne-Arton, mitigating, said Webster had walked into Wood Street police station in Wakefield the day after Mr Hale's death and admitted his role in the incident.He said Webster felt "worthless" for taking another man's life.
The lawyer added that Webster, who has a young daughter, had no previous convictions and acted out of character.He said his career in the Prison Service was over and any jail term would prove difficult to serve because of his former job.