Killer to tell court of sexual assault

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The Independent Online
A MAN given life imprisonment at the age of 15 for killing another teenager in a fight is to tell the Court of Appeal that he was the victim of a sexual assault immediately before the brawl.

This evidence was never put before the judge who sentenced David Ford after hearing him plead guilty to manslaughter in a 10- minute hearing. But his lawyers say it could be important in an appeal against the sentence imposed at Exeter assizes 28 years ago.

Ford killed the teenager after they fell into a mud-filled ditch on farmland in Devon. The boy probably died of asphyxiation within 30 seconds, a post-mortem examination showed.

In a television documentary to be screened tonight, Ford says he did not intend to cause his friend's death. But he says his legal representatives persuaded him to plead guilty to manslaughter in the hope of receiving a lenient sentence.

The judge said he was imposing a life sentence because this was 'more merciful' than a fixed term. But Ford spent the next 11 years in jail, and was released only to be recalled again after committing minor offences. He has escaped five times, and been put back inside on each occasion.

His solicitor, Andrew McCooey, said last night: 'The Home Office has failed to perceive what the judge was wanting to do. They have now ruined this man's life.'

If Ford wins leave to appeal, he will tell the court that he should have been released after four or five years. His case will rest partly on claims that he was sexually assaulted by the teenager shortly before the fight.

The programme reveals that Ford told prison psychiatrists he had been sexually abused, but was advised to withdraw an appeal against his sentence.

A Prisoner on the Run, by First Tuesday: 10.40pm tonight on ITV.