Ex-soldier jailed for attacking disabled man

A former soldier who was filmed attacking a disabled man in his care was jailed today.

Wayne Parker, 37, laughed as he subjected Gareth Gunner to an ordeal which left the autistic 22-year-old screaming in terror.

Neighbours watched Parker, who worked as a carer at the Newbus Grange residential care home near Neesham in County Durham, strike Mr Gunner about the face and head with a series of open handed karate chop style blows as the pair exercised on an outdoor trampoline.

Parker then shoved Mr Gunner, who the court heard was severely disabled and had a vocabulary of just a few words, into the centre of the trampoline and ordered him to bounce.

Judge Tony Briggs watched a video of the incident filmed by a concerned neighbour who was alerted by Mr Gunner's cries.

Teesside Crown Court heard Stephen Gray grabbed his camera after watching Parker taunting Mr Gunner in August last year.

Prosecutor Jenny Haigh said Mr Gray was shocked to see Parker push Mr Gunner with great force into the safety netting surrounding the trampoline, then punch him in the face.

Another witness, Clare Mathieson, described hearing Parker's "cruel, nasty" laughter and Mr Gunner wailing unhappily as he was attacked.

She said: "It was sickening that someone who was looking after a vulnerable person could do this."

Jailing him for eight months, Judge Briggs said: "You have been for some years a carer for those mentally unable to look after themselves and were in a position of considerable trust.

"It is perfectly plain that Mr Gunner was clearly distressed and frightened, and in relation to that it is not a surprise that those who lived nearby and were used to the sounds patients made clearly stated that they were sounds of fear and distress.

"Unhappily, looking at the whole matter, prison is unescapable. The vulnerable have to be protected."

Parker, of Harcourt Street, Darlington, admitted a single charge of assaulting or neglecting a person in his care who was not mentally capable.

Mitigating, Martin Towers said Parker, who is married and worked as a carer since leaving the Army seven years ago, had suffered a momentary and disastrous loss of control during "horseplay" on the trampoline.

He said: "He recognises that what happened has destroyed his career and there is no way back for him in that line of work."

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