Teenager jailed for killing man with one punch

A teenager was jailed for 20 months today for killing a man with a single punch in an unprovoked attack.

Darryl Church was just 17 years old when he walked up to William McNaught and threw a deadly punch.

The blow twisted Mr McNaught's neck, rupturing a vital artery and severed the flow of blood to his brain.

The 24-year-old was unconscious before he hit the ground in Abbeymead Avenue, Abbeymead, Gloucester on 9 May last year.

Church, now aged 18, of Curlew Close, Abbeymead, was sent to a young offenders' institution for 20 months after admitting manslaughter at an earlier hearing.

Bristol Crown Court heard today that Church was given a 12 month referral order in April 2008 after being convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

He was just 16 when he punched another teenager at a party fracturing his jaw and again rendering him unconscious.

At that time the altercation started with an argument over a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey between the victim and one of Church's friends.

In a chilling similarity, Mr Justice Burnett said today that the fatal blow to Mr McNaught came after a previous confrontation between Mr McNaught and the same friend.

Mr McNaught had been on a night out with his fiancee Nicole Brown and friends.

He had been drinking heavily, sparking an argument between him and Miss Brown who left him in a nightclub to go home.

Mr McNaught was found to have alcohol levels in his blood that would have been more than three times the legal drink drive limit.

After falling and hitting his head on a fence, Mr McNaught was being driven home by his sister and a friend and asked the driver to pull over when he saw Church and his group of friends drinking on the street.

Mr McNaught did not know Church but wanted to speak to his friend and so got out of the car.

Prosecutor Julian Kesner said that as he approached the group he had his hands by his side in a non-threatening way but was pushed away.

Church then walked over and threw his body weight behind a single punch to the left side of Mr McNaught's head.

Despite attempts to save his life, Mr McNaught was declared brain dead in hospital the next day and his life support machine was turned off.

In interviews Church at first denied he had hit Mr McNaught but then agreed that he had punched him because he thought "we were in trouble, that he was going to start".

Mr McNaught's mother Janet said in a letter written to the court: "William's death has devastated and broken our hearts.

"I have tried to come to terms with William's sudden and violent end but I continue to struggle.

"The act that took him from us was so mindless and vicious I cannot accept it.

"Darryl Church will have to live with what he did for the rest of his life as will we.

"No amount of time will be paid for what we have lost.

"Darryl Church needs this time to consider his actions and behaviour and to truly understand the consequences of what he did."

Martin Steen, mitigating, said: "This has been a devastating blow to both families.

"The defendant has asked me to apologise to the family for their tragic loss, if there was anything that he could say or do to put matters right he would take those steps.

"But there is not and he will live with the shame and guilt for the rest of his life."

Sentencing, Mr Justice Burnett said: "This case demonstrates the inherent danger in punching anyone in the head.

"Often it is the subsequent banging of the head on the ground when someone falls that causes a fatal injury but sometimes, as here, the blow itself causes damage which is fatal.

"You did not intend to cause serious injury but that provides no consolation for Mr McNaught's family who have described their incomprehension at the mindless and vicious thing you did."

As the sentence was read out Mr McNaught's family left the public gallery in tears.

Mr McNaught was living in Kingsholm, Gloucester, at the time of his death but was born in Glasgow where he spent his early childhood before moving to Cheltenham with his parents Alan and Janet.

After their separation he moved back to Glasgow, attending Drumchapel High School, to live with his father until the age of 18 when he went back to Gloucestershire to live with his mother.

He had 14 brothers and sisters and his funeral at Gloucester Cathedral in July was attended by more than 150 people.

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