Soldier's army career hangs between Afghanistan and jail

A soldier accused of killing a man in Norwich's nightclub district has been cleared of manslaughter and common assault, but could still face jail after he was found guilty of affray - meaning he would not be allowed to fly out to Afghanistan next week.

A soldier accused of killing a man in Norwich's nightclub district has been cleared of manslaughter and common assault, but could still face jail after he was found guilty of affray - meaning he would not be allowed to fly out to Afghanistan next week.

The judge at Norwich Crown Court yesterday adjourned sentence on Daniel Gooda until today after a senior officer told the court that Gooda's special skills - which include speaking an Afghan language - were important to the army's work in the war-torn country.

The jury had taken less than four hours to find Gooda not guilty of the manslaughter of Timothy Moore, 30, a father-of-two from Templemere in Norwich.

The jury of five women and seven men also found Gooda not guilty of common assault, a charge which related to an alleged attack on a police officer while he was being treated for an injury at the James Paget University Hospital, Gorleston, but returned a guilty verdict on a second charge of affray.

Gooda, a Household Cavalry trooper, who is based at Combermere Barracks, Windsor, but is from the Norwich area, had denied all three charges. His Honour Judge Leonard QC yesterday adjourned sentence on Gooda, who is booked on a plane to Afghanistan on Thursday, until today.

The 26-year-old defendant, who was dressed in dark suit, white shirt, blue and red tie, with a poppy on his jacket lapel, afforded himself a small smile when found not guilty of manslaughter.

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But the soldier shook his head in dismay when the judge said "the level of violence" revealed by the CCTV footage of the attack led him to conclude there might be no other course than prison - which the court heard would result in him being dismissed from the army.

Norwich Crown Court yesterday heard from Lieutenant Frederick Hopkinson from the Household Cavalry who said that Gooda, a trooper in 2 Troop, B Squadron, of the Household Cavalry, was a highly trained member of the Life Guards who was an "integral part of his particular troop" who required him "to do his job".

Lt Hopkinson said: "B Squadron are acting as a brigade reconnaissance force which is a highly skilled squadron working at brigade level rather than battalion level.

"They have to undergo a specific training schedule to a much greater degree than other squadrons in the Household Cavalry so much so that they are not interchangeable. You can't take a soldier from A Squadron to B Squadron because of the level of training required."

The court heard that Gooda, a trooper and gunner for a specific vehicle, was also one of the few to have completed a special language course for Afghanistan.

Lt Hopkinson said it allowed him to "communicate better with the Afghan locals".

He added: "We're trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. In order to communicate with them we need to have the specific language and communicate with them on the ground. Not only is it important for the soldiers' own safety to speak the language it's also important for the safety of the Afghan people."

Ben Maguire, defending, asked Lt Hopkinson what would happen if Gooda was given a custodial sentence. He said: "He could no longer remain in the army". But when asked what would happen if the judge decided to suspend the sentence, Lt Hopkinson said: "He can remain in the army" and confirmed Gooda would be able to fly out on Thursday.

In adjourning sentence yesterday, in order to see full copies of Gooda's military service records, Judge Leonard said he was "aware of the consequences of any actions I might take".

After the jury returned its verdict, John Farmer, prosecuting, told the court that Gooda had previous convictions for common assault in 2001, assault occasioning actual bodily harm in 2003, for which he was sentenced to four months in a young offenders' institution, and another conviction in 2004 for driving with excess alcohol.

Mr Maguire told the court that before the trial started they had offered a guilty plea on the affray charge on the basis that the crown "did not pursue the manslaughter allegation" but this was refused.

He also said that had the charge put to Gooda merely been affray it was a "public order offence" where "no weapons were used" which could have seen the defendant dealt with in the magistrates' court.

During the two-week trial Gooda said he accepted that he had punched Mr Moore and said: "I do accept that my reaction to his actions was the cause of his later demise."

But he had said he acted because he felt Mr Moore had attacked his friend Jason Brookes during a night out in Prince of Wales Road.

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