A "decent and mild-natured" man who stabbed a teenager who had attacked him with an axe in his own home had his two-year suspended jail term halved yesterday.
The ruling by Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, was a defeat for Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General, who had sought to get the sentence increased. Baroness Scotland had claimed the sentence imposed last October at Teesside Crown Court was "unduly lenient" but her application was dismissed at the Court of Appeal which ruled the householder had been "goaded beyond endurance".
Kenneth Blight, 51, was attacked by his partner's son, Andrew Nelson, 19, with an axe in May last year when he demanded the teenager leave the house.Mr Nelson had spent the day drinking and smoking cannabis and had chosen to use Mr Blight's home as a hideaway from drug dealers to whom he owed money. Mr Blight was concerned about his own three children's safety should the dealers find the property so told Mr Nelson he had to leave.
The teenager responded by grabbing an axe and hitting Mr Blight on the leg with the blunt side, causing heavy bruising, before a friend and his mother hustled him into the garden. He continued brandishing the axe and threatened to decapitate Mr Blight, screaming: "Get out here, I'm going to chop your head off, you baldy headed bastard!"
Lord Judge accepted that Mr Blight feared the teenager would break back in so picked up a knife and followed him into the garden hoping to scare him into dropping the axe and leaving.
He tried to grab the axe but the teenager swung it at him repeatedly, causing several defensive cuts, whereupon Mr Blight lost his temper and stabbed the 19-year-old once in the neck. He maintained he had forgotten he was holding the knife when he lashed out.
Major blood vessels were severed by the stab wound and the teenager almost bled to death, surviving only after several hours of emergency surgery.
Lord Judge, sitting with Mr Justice Irwin and Mr Justice Penry Davey, was satisfied Mr Blight had suffered severe provocation before the stabbing and said: "This was a decent middle-aged man in his own home, goaded beyond endurance by an attack on him with an axe by a much younger man.
"In so far as there was an acceptance of an intent to do really serious harm, it was an intent formed in the most anguished circumstances. It is one thing to form such an intent when you are the aggressor, but it is another entirely when you have been subjected to this.
"This offence took place in a desperate situation. He retaliated momentarily and in the most extenuating and exceptional circumstances."
Far from warranting a stiffer penalty than the original two-year suspended sentence, he ruled that Mr Blight's sentence should be reduced by a year.