31 July, 2010


Headline of the week

From this week's Wharf, one of London Docklands' freesheets.

A deaf man charged with threatening to throw a DLR worker on to the track at Canary Wharf was cleared of the attack after he said he was just asking for directions to the Tube in sign language.

Keith Hylton, 46, of Finsbury House in north London, appeared at Stratford Magistrates charged with common assault against two travel safe officers in the incident last July.

The prosecution claimed Maxwell Gjampoh and Mayene Bintu Sesay were attacked by Mr Hylton after waking him up on a train which had terminated at Canary Wharf on a Saturday night.

However, after a three-hour hearing on Tuesday, magistrates dismissed the charges against him due to lack of evidence.

It was claimed that after being ordered off the stationary train, Mr Hylton, who had three beers in Stratford earlier that evening, gestured to Ms Sesay that he would throw her on the track before pushing and punching her colleague Mr Maxwell.

When questioned in court Ms Sesay said the defendant did a pushing motion towards her before pointing down towards the line.

However, in cross exarmning for the defence, Obinna Okamgba asked her: "Did you know that in sign language that means 'where is the Tube?'

"Knowing that and knowing that he's deaf, do you think his loud voice could have been down to his disability rather than aggression?"

Ms Sesay replied: "No, I'm 100 per cent sure he was being aggressive."

She did concede she had not seen her colleague being attacked. She said she had called the control centre before Mr Hylton was claimed to have punched Mr Gjampoh and asked them to record the incident on CCTV.

Mr Okamgba said: "You asked the control room to get CCTV the incident but this court will not see a shred of evidence from CCTV footage."

When called as a witness Mr Gjampoh, who works as a travel safe officer, maintained the defendant had pushed him before aiming a punch at him, which he managed to avoid.

In cross examining the defence lawyer said: "That's not true is it? He never pushed you and never punched you.

"When the police came you made it up because you realised he was deaf and you had mistaken his disability for aggression and you were embarrassed."

Mr Hylton, who was supported by three interpreters in the case, was not called upon to give evidence. However, his statement to police, made in September last year, was read out to the court. In the statement Mr Hylton said he tried to communicate with the DLR staff through sign language and denied acting aggressively.

He said: "I didn't push him. I was tapping him with my fingertips to get his attention because he was talking to his colleague.

"I was trying to find out where the Underground was but communication was a problem."

Magistrate Mr John Martin ruled Mr Hylton not guilty due to there being "no substantive evidence" to back claims an assault took place.

Curiously, whenever there are deaf people around, I find myself instinctively keeping my hands still in case I inadvertently sign something offensive. Looks like my instincts were correct.

Noting the names of the various principals, I wonder how this case plays out in the calculus of victimhood poker.

Proverb of the day: In the Kingdom of the Deaf, the Hearing Man wonders what the others are signing about him. And he's probably right, too.

So, once again, CCTV footage is mysteriously absent from a court case involving the transport authorities. How very fortuitous...

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