- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Gene Gallagher, 20, and Sonny Starkey, 21, were branded “entitled” after causing havoc on a late-night visit to a Tesco Express store when groceries was thrown around and the two young men were accused of “windmilling” down the aisles.
The incident was sparked after their friend and model Noah Ponte, 21, was accused of stealing a £1.70 gin and tonic drink after the shop had stopped serving alcohol and ended with Starkey being put in a headlock by a shop worker and police on the scene.
All three friends had been due to stand trial, accused of affray and assaults on shop staff Hiran Rajput and Shvium Patel, who said they were racially abused in an incident that happened almost three years ago in May 2019.
But prosecutors dropped the case on the first day of the trial.
“Your behaviour on this occasion when you entered the Tesco store was, in my view, completely out of order, no doubt as a result of having been drinking,” said Judge Joanna Greenberg as she ordered them to stay out of trouble.
“It is a hard enough for people running late-night stores without entitled young men thinking they could get what they want by misbehaving, and this is what the two of you did.”
She said prosecutors now accept the Tesco staff “over-reacted”. She added: “This doesn’t diminish to a great extent the bad behaviour.”
Gallagher, the son of Oasis frontman Liam and All Saints singer Nicole Appleton, and Starkey, the grandson of Beatle Ringo Starr, were first charged over the fracas in February 2020 and have been on bail for more than two years.
Prosecutor Alexander Agbamu told Wood Green Crown Court the incident began when Ponte was accused of stealing a can of pre-mixed alcohol and Gallagher and Starkey were then said to have delivered “kicks and punches” to shop workers who intervened.
However he said new CCTV – which the Met Police had failed to obtain – had been handed over by Starkey’s defence lawyer on Monday, appearing to show Starkey being pushed over by a shop worker.
An independent eyewitness said she “saw a member of the Tesco staff hitting and grabbing Mr Starkey and appearing to target him” and said the CPS had now concluded the ensuing brawl could have been justified.
“Mr Starkey and Mr Gallagher now have a strong case to the effect that Mr Starkey was lawfully defending himself and Mr Gallagher was lawfully defending Mr Starkey,” said Mr Agbamu.
In addition, he said a Tesco security guard had called the incident “avoidable” and criticised his colleagues for failing to defuse the situation.
“I believe that the staff should have been more patient with the males,” he said. “They were clearly young and drunk, and (the staff) could have let me deal with the situation.
“The situation went from a discussion with me to a fight with all the staff. In my opinion, both sides could have handled the situation better.”
He added: “Although there is no doubt in my mind the males were the people that started the problem.”
Charges of affray against all three defendants, allegations of racially aggravated assault against Ponte and Gallagher, and claims of assault by Ponte and Starkey were dropped on Wednesday.
Ponte, from Hampstead, stood trial on an allegation of theft and was cleared by a jury today after 30 minutes of deliberation.
Judge Greenberg had urged the Crown Prosecution Service to consider dropping the theft charge, insisting it was a “trivial” incident that happened more than three years ago.
But prosecutors insisted on the two-day jury trial taking place.
Gallagher, also from Hampstead, and Starkey, of Camden, were handed a “bind over” by the judge, ending the criminal case with a promise of “good behaviour” for the next 12 months.
Mr Agbamu accepted the incident had been mishandled in the early stages and an allegation of drunk and disorderly was “perhaps the most appropriate charge”.