A CUNNING rogue staged a bogus 21st birthday bash in a staggering bid to cheat the law and escape justice.
Geoffrey Leigh Ewart went to extraordinary lengths to wriggle out of trouble for a Middlesbrough street brawl.
He faked his own 21st birthday party and falsified photographs to prove his arrest was a case of mistaken identity.
He tried to make the camera lie with pictures showing himself wearing a 21st birthday badge and blowing out candles on a 21st birthday cake.
The snaps were really taken 18 months or more after his real 21st birthday celebrations.
His audacious but doomed attempt to pull the wool over the courts’ eyes backfired spectacularly with a long prison sentence yesterday.
A well-timed pub refurb and detective work rumbled Ewart’s elaborate deception.
Teesside Crown Court heard how Ewart, now 24, was caught in a melee near Albert Bridge at about 2.15am on September 26, 2008.
Five police officers identified him from CCTV footage as the man headbutting and kicking another unidentified man for no apparent reason.
When interviewed Ewart said he wasn’t there and “it didn’t even look like me”.
He produced the photographs which he claimed would prove his innocence – some supposedly taken around his 21st birthday in May 2007, months before the street fight.
They showed him with a tattoo on his right arm – unlike the man in the CCTV film.
CPS prosecutor Alexander Menary said: “It is meant to say, ‘This couldn’t have been me because my tattoo would have been shown, because here I am on these photographs with it on May 2007’.”
The scam was undone with police inquiries at the Norman Conquest pub in Normanby, where the “birthday” pictures were taken.
The pub owner said the photos must have been taken after refurbishments, which took place after Ewart’s fight.
Other photographs were doctored with dates superimposed on to them.
Ewart, of Grisedale Crescent, Grangetown, admitted affray and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
He also admitted an unprovoked actual bodily harm assault on a man at the Garage pub on January 16, 2009.
He repeatedly punched Ryan Leopard-Sheffield leaving him with cuts, bruises and a chipped tooth.
The judge, Recorder Jonathan Sandiford, saw it was Ewart’s subterfuge which earned him the jail term rather than the violence.
He said: “I’m afraid this was not the panicked reaction of somebody giving a false name to the police station.
“It was a pre-meditated, determined and well-planned attack on the court process. It involved the manufacture of evidence. It was persisted in.”
He said it was sinister that Ewart’s solicitors were given the names of people in the photographs to seek statements backing up his lies.
“It’s plain to me that to have any chance of success this scheme would have had to have involved persuading those individuals to give false evidence to say that that was your 21st birthday party.
“In fact, as we know now, it must have been staged at a later point.
“It has been said many times that the court process must be protected,” added the judge.
“And you transformed what was a case involving two bad enough incidents of violence into something more serious.”
Ewart, who had only one previous conviction, was jailed for two-and-a-half years, his first prison sentence, including 18 months for the deception.
Jonathan Walker, defending, said: “It appears to be a fairly determined attempt to warp the smooth running of the criminal justice system.
“The ill-judged stupidity started to unravel when he approached members of his family who quite properly refused to become involved in their son’s folly.
“It became abundantly clear that this was an ill-judged attempt to ramp up what he believed was a proper defence.”
He added Ewart apologised for his “drunken and thuggish activities”, was not inherently violent and had not been violent in the last 18 months.
Ewart was otherwise amiable, industrious, hard-working with strong family support and character references.
Mr Walker said on the day of the 2008 affray Ewart had been to the funeral of a friend whom he had found dead.