Bristol Rovers boss Joey Barton's assault trial abandoned as evidence 'lost in translation'
The trial of Bristol Rovers manager Joey Barton has been adjourned and the jury discharged because of communication difficulties.
Barton was on trial at Sheffield Crown Court accused of assaulting former Barnsley manager Daniel Stendel in April 2019, causing him actual bodily harm. He denies the charge against him.
The court heard Barton, who was in charge at Fleetwood Town at the time, allegedly pushed Mr Stendel after his side lost to Barnsley at Oakwell Stadium.
Mr Stendel told jurors he was pushed "with considerable force" from behind as he left the pitch and was walking through the tunnel, causing him to fall and seriously injure his face.
Because of Covid-19 restrictions Mr Stendel, who lives in Germany, was giving evidence via video link from a district court in Hanover in the presence of a judge.
Mr Stendel was giving evidence in German, which is his first language, and an interpreter was being used in the court in Sheffield.
But after a discussion with both the prosecution and defence Judge Jeremy Richardson QC halted proceedings, saying it was becoming difficult to ensure everything was being properly translated and understood.
"When something comes down to translation, it’s just not right to just struggle on, I became increasingly concerned things were getting lost in translation." Judge Jeremy Richardson QC
Before dismissing the jury he said: "There have been with Mr Stendel's evidence a multitude of difficulties."
He said Mr Stendel speaks with a "provincial or regional dialect" and was sat in a large court room causing an echo.
"A combination of those factors - the echo, the regional dialect - and the fact he was giving quite long answers, means some of his answers may have been mistranslated," Judge Richardson QC added.
"Both the translator here and the judge in the German court agreed there have been a few examples of mistranslation. That’s not fair to him [Mr Stendel], to Mr Barton and to you [the jury], because if we just went on we would be speculating."
A new date for the trial is yet to be decided.
The judge said he hopes an override of coronavirus travel restrictions can be granted for Mr Stendel to attend in person as soon as possible.
The trial, which was already delayed by a year because of the pandemic and the football season, is now one of the oldest cases left to hear at Sheffield Crown Court, according to Judge Richardson.
He said: "I don't think in my now nearly 41 years of law in this country, I've ever been part of a hearing where we've had to hear the evidence in quite this way.
"During the pandemic, the courts in both this country and elsewhere have tried as hard as possible by the use of technology to keep going, but we are occasionally defeated."
Barton was released on unconditional bail and will not be back in court until the new trial begins.