Doorman who used 'grossly inappropriate' choke hold on clubber jailed for manslaughter

James Etherington (left) was 'choked out' by Ciaran Spencer.
James Etherington (left) was 'choked out' by Ciaran Spencer.
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A doorman who “choked out” a drunken nightclubber before letting him fall backwards onto the pavement outside a West Yorkshire venue has been jailed for manslaughter.

Trained and licensed bouncer Ciaran Spencer, 25, had denied unlawfully killing 24-year-old Bingley man James Etherington in 2017, but following a second trial at Bradford Crown Court a jury unanimously convicted him on the manslaughter charge.

Ciaran Spencer has been jailed for the manslaughter of James Etherington. Credit: West Yorkshire Police

Ciaran Spencer has been jailed for the manslaughter of James Etherington. Credit: West Yorkshire Police

Last summer a previous jury failed to reach a verdict in the case, but at the end of a week-long trial on January 10 Spencer, of Green Head Drive, Utley, Keighley, was jailed for four years.

Mr Etherington, who had been a keen sportsman and worked for Yorkshire Water, had been out in Leeds before he and a friend got a taxi back to the Bijou nightclub is Bingley in the early hours of November 25, 2017.

After drinking two shots in the club Mr Etherington refused to pay for them and was challenged by Spencer and two other door staff.

During the trial the jury were shown CCTV footage of Mr Etherington falling backwards onto the pavement and suffering fatal head injuries from which he never recovered.

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The Recorder of Bradford Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said Spencer had been faced with a very drunk and unruly young man, but he said the defendant was sober and a big, fit man himself who would have had at the forefront of his mind the limits of his duty and the need to take care as well as eject.

The judge said Spencer had decided to use “a grossly inappropriate” choke hold to get Mr Etherington out of the club and his victim must have been semi-conscious or almost unconscious when the defendant let him fall backwards onto the “unyielding cement”.

“I have heard moving victim statements from the family who you have, through your grossly reckless actions, destroyed and of course that family will never recover from what happened,” the judge told Spencer.

In her statement read to the court Mr Etherington’s mother Christine described how the family were besides themselves with grief when they were told 10 days later that her son, who was being treated at Leeds General Infirmary, would not survive and his ventilator was switched off.

She said her son had been a really happy and lovable character who was popular and had lots of friends in Bingley.

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“We are all completely devastated and find it very hard to come to terms with what happened to James,” she said. “James was only 24 when he died and had a lifetime ahead of him.”

His brother Joe said:”In the ICU saying my last goodbye and knowing I would never see my big brother again was indescribable. James had everything. A good career, a wonderful girlfriend, a charming personality. His aspirations and ambitions all gone.”

Judge Durham Hall said a promising life had been lost in wholly avoidable circumstances at the hands of a door supervisor who had almost arrogantly and deliberately ignored that which common sense, never mind his training, declared was unlawful.

Shortly after Mr Etherington was ejected from the club Spencer texted a friend saying he had “choked somebody out” and the judge said it was clear that he knew what he had done.

After jailing Spencer the judge commended the police officers involved in the case and also expressed his “adjective disgust” at the level of training given to door supervisors.

He suggested there was massive room for improvement and a stiffening up of training before men and women could operate in such circumstances.