Families unite after GBH defendant cleared

Westgate, Wakefield, where a mass brawl occurred last December
Westgate, Wakefield, where a mass brawl occurred last December

The father of a barman whose punch left a takeaway owner with brain damage and in need of 24 hour lifelong care, has said his son will have to “live with his actions for the rest of his life”.

Ray Balmforth was speaking after his 21 year-old son Joshua was acquitted of causing grievous bodily harm to Haq Nawaz Rasool, known to friends as ‘Maj’ during a city centre brawl in Wakefield last December.

Joshua Balmforth admitted he’d punched Rasool, who owned the Shalamar takeaway in the city, but claimed he’d acted in defence of his friend who was being attacked at the time.

The jury of five men and seven women accepted his version of events and delivered a verdict of ‘not guilty’ following a four day trial at Leeds Crown Court on Friday afternoon.

Joshua Balmforth, of Thornhill Lees in Dewsbury, broke down in tears after the verdict was read out and mouthed ‘thank you’ to the jury as they left the court.

After the trial had ended, the defendant’s father and Mr Rasool’s uncle, Mohammed Ramzan embraced in the public gallery and met afterwards to offer a united message to the public despite being on opposing sides during the trial.

The two families have now said they want to start a campaign together, urging people not to engage in violence to resolve conflict.

Mr Ramzan said: “The impact of this one punch has been devastating for Maj and his family and we just hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“Lives can be ruined by just one punch. Josh isn’t the first person and he won’t be the last to have done something like this, but if we can stop just one or two people from punching or being violent then that’s a success for us.

“Josh has been found not guilty, who am I to question the judgement of the jury?”

Ray Balmforth added his thanks to Mr Ramzan and the rest of his family and said: “For the last nine months since this started all our lives have just stood still.

“We want to try and use what’s happened here and turn into a positive. Josh will have to live with his actions for the rest of his life and Mr Rasool is clearly going to suffer for the rest of his.

“It can be the hardest thing to do to stop and walk away but that’s got to be the way. Fighting and hitting never solves anything.

“We just want people to learn that violence isn’t the answer.”