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
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick