BBC reporter faces jail for hitting boy during fight at pub

Ashley Blake 'gutted' over conviction for wounding
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The Independent Online

A BBC news reader faces jail after being found guilty of wounding a teenager with a pub umbrella pole.

The former Watchdog presenter Ashley Blake was convicted of unlawful wounding at Birmingham Crown Court after swinging a patio umbrella pole above his head and hitting Greg Jones, 17, in the face at an 18th birthday party in January. The incident took place at the pub Blake then owned, The Place II B in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands.

The 40-year-old, who now works as reporter for Midlands Today and on the Inside Out current affairs show, was acquitted of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm but was also found guilty of intending to pervert the course of justice by throwing the pole into a neighbouring garden centre in an attempt to conceal it from the police.

Blake told jurors that he used the pole as a "bat"to fend off bottles, ashtrays and broken-up furniture being hurled at him by a crowd of up to 30 people. It was normally used to secure the pub's door.

The court heard Blake ran behind the bar to fetch the pole, which measured about 3ft long (91cm) and 1.5 inches wide (4cm), after a customer, Steven Sproule, punched another 17-year-old in the face, leaving him unconscious on the ground.

Sproule, 38, of Great Barr, Birmingham, has pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The friends of the punched boy became angry and upset after the attack. The teenager that Blake hit, Greg Jones, was trying to calm the situation.

The prosecutor, Naomi Gilchrist, said: "Greg Jones asked him [Blake] to call an ambulance. He did not hear a response. He then noticed the defendant was holding a pole in his hands. As he noticed the pole, the defendant swung the pole above his head and hit Greg Jones in the face with it."

Greg Jones suffered facial injuries to his lip and his chin. Police arrested Blake at the scene after witnesses told them he was responsible for the attack.

When quizzed in a police interview, Blake initially denied getting the pole.

After being shown CCTV footage of him fetching the pole from behind the bar, Blake said he had wanted to use it to secure the doors to keep out the crowd of revellers who had begun throwing items of furniture at staff. Judge Peter Carr warned Blake he faced a possible jail sentence. He told him: "You have been convicted of a serious offence which involved wounding a young man.

"The almost inevitable outcome for a case such as this is a prison sentence and I warn you that that is the most likely outcome."

Speaking after the verdict, Blake said: "[I am] just gutted, absolutely gutted – and all because I did a favour for someone to host their party there. It's all over, isn't it? My job, everything."

Steven Jones, the father of the victim, said outside court: "I'm just pleased Ashley Blake got what he deserves. He lied to the police, he lied on several occasions. My son is walking around with a scar for the rest of his life.

"The judge has done his job. I just hope the sentence reflects the crime."

Blake, who is on bail, is due to return to Birmingham Crown Court on 2 September for sentencing.

Caroline Boots, the head of communications at BBC Birmingham, said outside court: "Ashley has been found guilty of a serious offence and we will need to carefully consider the findings of today's court proceedings before taking action."