Darlington man jailed after smashing wine glass into the face of a mourner at a funeral

Max Prior Credit: Evening Gazette

A man has been jailed after smashing a wine glass into the face of a mourner at a funeral.

Max Prior has been jailed for eight years after being found guilty of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Teesside Crown Court heard that the 36-year old only stopped when he was pulled away by onlookers at The Traveller's Rest in Cockerton on 14 October last year. 

Mourners had attended a funeral at the crematorium and a wake at Cockerton Club.

Prior, of St John's Crescent, Darlington, County Durham, did not know his victim and CCTV footage played during the trial showed the two men sitting on tables next to each other and engaged in, "amicable conversation" moments before Prior launched, "an unprovoked" attack.

The Traveller's Rest in Cockerton. Credit: Evening Gazette

Judge Christopher Smith said: "By some small miracle that no permanent damage was caused to the victim's eyesight."

The man was left with permanent scarring to his face, and psychological damage after the attack.

During the trial, Prior took to the witness stand and told the jury he acted in self-defence.

He said: "I just thought I'd stand up and tell the truth.

"I thought things were getting made up left, right, and centre and I just told the truth."

Having not prepared a defence statement, Prior's barrister Brian Russell asked no questions of the prosecution witnesses giving evidence during the trial.

The hearing was "unique" in that Prior only gave his side of the story for the first time to the jury, having not even disclosed it to his own lawyer, which he says is because he does not trust the police nor those working in the justice system.

In his evidence Prior claimed his victim started an argument with him: "He was holding his head in his hands and he made a really loud groaning noise and turned towards me and said 'I don't know you and I don't want to know you now **** off before I hit you, you ********'.

CCTV footage of the attack showed blood pouring down the victim's face, but at no point does the victim put his head in his hands.

After the verdict, Judge Smith said: "In 24 and a bit years I don't think I have ever come across a case where the prosecution witnesses were not cross examined and the first time anybody knew about the defence was when the defendant gave evidence.

"That is the course he chose to adopt in this case but it was an extraordinary one I'm bound to say."

The court also heard that Prior has previous convictions for affray - after attacking someone at a Christening; attempted robbery; and the possession of an offensive weapon.