Dad's agony at devastating impact of football match punch that ruined a year of his life
A father says he is disgusted that the man who punched him during a football match and ruined a year of his life has escaped jail.
Paul Moore (33) from Bangor, was playing for amateur club Comber Star last September when he was punched in the head by James Turner, a player on the opposing team.
Paul was unable to work for three months and had to move in with his in-laws as back and brain injuries left him struggling to care for his newborn son.
He has also had to give up playing the sport that he loves due to a risk of further brain injury.
But Turner (24) from Bloomfield Link in Bangor, walked away last week with a two year suspended sentence after he was convicted of inflicting actual bodily harm.
The incident took place during a match on September 9 last year between Comber Star and Turner's team Abbey Villa.
Comber Star were two goals up when a fight broke out. Mr Moore explained: "It started over nothing.
"I think it was an ego thing. It was just sort of two guys squaring up to each other but it turned into a mass brawl."
Mr Moore, who played as a centre half, ran up the pitch and was trying to break up a fight when Turner punched him once to the side of his head. The blow made him fall to the ground and he was unconscious for a few minutes. He experienced temporary paralysis down his left side and had to be strapped to a spinal board and wear a neck brace for three days.
He also suffered three small bleeds to the brain and bruising and swelling to his spinal cord.
He had to take three months off work and he suffered from ongoing headaches, back pain and depression because of the injuries. He had to have physiotherapy for months after the incident and also had dental work to fix five teeth that were chipped.
The attack happened just three weeks after Mr Moore's baby son Charlie was born.
His wife Victoria suffered complications following the birth and the couple and their son had to move in with her parents so they help care for Charlie during the first months of his life.
Mr Moore said: "I couldn't even look after Charlie for the first month or two. My wife had complications with the birth so my in-laws have helped to look after us all. They've been a great help. We couldn't have got by without them."
He said that the injury has also affected his career as a bank official. His employers had offered to pay for him to do a qualification in mortgages but he missed the course due to his ill health.
"I was in no fit state to study anything. I wasn't able to do the course and if I want to do it now, I'd have to pay for it myself. My injuries held me back," he said.
Mr Moore has now recovered from most of his injuries but doctors are not sure of the long term effects.
He said: "I saw a neurological specialist recently and he said there's a small chance of seizures and there's a small chance it could lead to cognitive difficulties like Alzheimer's later in life."
Mr Moore said that not being able to play football is now what affects him most: "I played football all my life and having that taken away from me because of someone else really bugs me more than anything. I really miss it. It was stress relief."
Mr Moore said he was "disgusted" when he saw that Turner had escaped jail.
He said: "He punched me and he's been able to get on with his life. I've been suffering since. It's taken a year of my life and it was the first year of my son's life. That really got me down. Although it's on his record, there's no real consequence for him."
In court last week, Turner's defence barrister submitted that Turner had shown remorse for his actions which he said were "out of character" for the father-of-one who has a clear criminal record.
Sentencing Turner, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said he was satisfied the "custody threshold" had been passed because of the long term consequences for Mr Moore and his unacceptable behaviour but that he saw "no merit" in sending Turner to jail given his clear criminal record and good work history.
Mr Moore hopes that the County Antrim FA will now be able to take action against Turner through their own disciplinary procedures.
He said: "I hope the County Antrim FA will give him a long term ban. I think he shouldn't be playing."
Mr Moore and his family are trying to move on from the incident. Unable to stay away from the sport he loves, Mr Moore has recently completed a refereeing course so he can still participate from the sidelines.
"I want to referee matches if I can't play in them so I hope I won't be on the receiving end of any more violence," he said.