Man jailed over unprovoked attack

 

A 21-year-old man who "wrecked the life of another human being" with one unprovoked punch has been jailed for two years and eight months.

Iain Eldridge, now 36, was enjoying a New Year's Eve night out in Bawtry, South Yorkshire, with his partner Julie Darby when he was attacked by Paul Oakden in the early hours of January 1, this year.

Oakden punched gas engineer Mr Eldridge, who hit the ground causing severe head injuries, Doncaster Crown Court heard.

Mr Eldridge, from Auckley, near Doncaster, suffered bleeding on his brain and was in intensive care for a month.

He is now in a wheelchair and battling against a range of physical and mental problems, the court heard.

A judge said the case was "very close to being one-punch manslaughter".

The court was told how Oakden claimed he thought there had been an altercation taking place between Mr Eldridge and Ms Darby but he later accepted he had completely misunderstood the situation after drinking a large amount of beer.

Judge Peter Kelson QC heard how Mr Eldridge still has part of his skull missing due to the surgery he had been subjected to and would need a further operation to have a titanium plate fitted.

He was told he now struggles to play with his two daughters - aged 10 and 13 - and has not been able to work, leaving him fearing for his family's financial future.

Police said Mr Eldridge did not feel up to attending court today.

But, in a statement read to the court, he said: "I'm a law abiding person, I've always worked, I'm a good person and a good dad.

"I've never said a bad word to anyone - never had a fight.

"For me to go out that night with Julie and get attacked is awful.

"All I was doing was enjoying a night out with Julie and friends."

Sentencing Oakden, Judge Kelson said: "I cannot overstate the severity of these injuries."

He said: "For the foreseeable future, his (Mr Eldridge's) life is not far off wrecked."

The judge told Oakden: "You completely misconstrued the loving exchanges between Mr Eldridge and his girlfriend.

"For some reason you got into your head they weren't loving exchanges but they were possible domestic violence.

"Unfortunately, you decided to take the law into your own hands, you became judge and jury."

Judge Kelson said: "You walked back to them and you landed one massive blow to Mr Eldridge's face. He didn't see it coming.

"He fell to the floor and landed with an almighty crash."

The judge said Oakden had consumed seven or eight cans of lager before leaving for the pub that night and a further three to four pints while out.

Judge Kelson said this was "over a gallon of alcohol".

He told Oakden: "That night you took the law in to your own hands and wrecked the life of another human being."

Oakden, of Kingswood Close, Bawtry, admitted one count of causing grievous bodily harm.

He sat in the dock staring straight at the judge through the hearing, sporting short hair and a goatee beard and wearing a white shirt with a black tie.

As he was taken out of the dock the were shouts of "scum" from the public gallery.

Speaking outside court, Ms Darby said she did not accept Oakden's claim that he simply misunderstood the situation.

She said: "He's a pure thug. I'm just glad he's off the streets and he can't do this to any other family."

Ms Darby added: "We don't know what the future holds, to be honest - if he'll work again.

"He's got two young daughters and he can't play with them like he used to.

"I don't know what we're going to do."

She said she was happy with Oakden's sentence.

The court heard how the last thing Mr Eldridge remembers is chatting to Ms Darby in the pub, planning the rest of their lives together.

The judge was told they had met four months before the incident.

In a statement released through police, Ms Darby and Mr Eldridge's family said: "Iain is a hardworking and honest family man who was just out enjoying News Years Eve as hundreds of other people were doing, when he was assaulted in a completely unprovoked attack by Oakden.

"There is no other reason as to why he attacked Iain other than he is just a thug who was out to cause trouble.

"He won't admit this and continues to lie about the attack, but he knows in his own mind what he's done and that he has ruined our lives."

Det Ch Insp Steve Whittaker, of South Yorkshire Police, said: "The ferocity of the unprovoked punch left Mr Eldridge with no time to defend himself and in a life threatening condition for over a month.

"Now at home, he is progressing well; however, it is a long recovery process he will have to undergo, which will require further operations and the long-term prognosis is unknown but totally life-changing for him.

"Oakden has shown no remorse for his actions and from his violent, drunken behaviour, he has created an overwhelming amount of distress and heartache for Mr Eldridge and his family, in particular his two young children who could have very easily been left without a father because of Oakden's senseless crime."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones