A father and his three sons have been cleared of taking part in a disturbance in the centre of Holsworthy in which they were confronted by up to 20 men.
Steven Quinlan and sons Jake, Blaine and Charlie, all walked free from the dock at Exeter Crown Court after being cleared of all charges arising from the violence which flared after a Halloween fancy dress party.
They were cleared after defence lawyers told the jury there was no forensic evidence to link them to a vicious stamping attack which left barman Ricky Cobbledick with serious head injuries.
Footwear seized from all four defendants did not match a clearly defined foot mark left on the chin and throat of the victim when he was found semi-conscious in the street.
The shoes were never sent for full forensic analysis because of the dissimilarity, a move which defence barrister Richard Crabb described as “amateur night at Bideford police station”.
The Quinlan family told the jury they were the victims of mob justice and were picked on because they were considered outsiders because they came from a village outside Holsworthy itself.
They said the serious injuries suffered by Mr Cobbledick were inflicted by another man named James Clarke, who jumped into their car as they were leaving the scene.
Clarke denied having attacked anyone but became abusive while being cross examined and swore at defence counsel when they asked about his previous convictions, which included an assault in almost exactly the same spot a few months earlier.
Steven Quinlan, aged 45, and sons Blaine, aged 22, Jake, aged 23, and Charlie, aged 18, all of Downs View, Venn Green, Milton Damerel, all denied violent disorder and attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr Cobbledick. Steven denied dangerous driving.
Judge John Neligan thanked the jury for their diligence after they found all four not guilty after more than three hours of deliberation.
He had already dismissed charges of affray and causing actual bodily harm.
During a three week trial the four men told a jury at Exeter Crown Court they were the victims of the violence and were acting in self defence.
The mass brawl erupted after a Halloween party at the Crown and Sceptre pub in Fore Street at which some guests were dressed as witches or undertakers.
Blaine and Charlie say they were attacked outside the pub by a group of locals who picked on them because they were not regulars and hit them with fists a metal crutch.
They summoned their father to pick them up and he and older brother Jake were them confronted by 15 to 20 men in the centre of the town.
The prosecution alleged the family were at the heart of the disturbance and all four kicked and stamped on Crown and Sceptre Ricky Cobbledick, who was left with serious head injuries.
Witnesses have also described Steven Quinlan driving his car at the angry crowd when he arrived in Fore Street to pick up his two sons.
The jury have been told there were tensions between the Quinlans and the other group because they were ‘not locals’ even though they lived in a village a few miles away.