Victim's mum enraged at 'one punch' sentence length
The mother of a "happy-go-lucky" father-of-seven who suffered a severe brain injury in a drunken one-punch attack outside a bar says she is furious at the sentence handed to his attacker.
And MLAs from across the political spectrum have united in a call for the Attorney General to intervene in a bid to increase the one-year and two-month term handed to thug Teddy Roulston.
Peter Morrison, who turned 38 last Saturday, also suffered a fractured skull, bleeding and bruising of the brain, and a large stroke from increased pressure within his skull.
Mr Morrison has been left with permanent and significant disability, and in the aftermath of the attack outside a bar on June 11 last year it was thought he would not survive his head injuries.
Yesterday Roulston (30), from the Ballycoleman estate in Strabane, was told he will spend just over a year behind bars - despite the judge noting his 10 previous convictions, two of them for assault.
The victim's mother Maureen Morrison said neither she nor members of the family could understand what they called the leniency of the sentence imposed at the Crown Court in Londonderry.
"After what he did to Peter he gets just over one year in jail whereas Peter has been left with a life sentence in terms of his awful injuries," she said.
"We thank God that Peter survived but it's terrible to look at him now and to think that just over a year ago he was a happy-go-lucky son who loved life.
"We are very angry at the light sentence given the injuries and permanent disabilities Peter has suffered. Speaking as a mother, the sentence is just wrong."
In cases such as this, judges use sentencing guidelines to ensure consistency across cases.
They must take into account mitigating circumstances, such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with the police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors such as intent and excessive violence.
However, Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said that at face value there was a case for reviewing what appeared to him to be a lenient sentence.
In the past, relatives have written to Attorney General John Larkin to ask him to consider referring a case back to the Court of Appeal in an effort to get a sentence increased.
"It would be beneficial to the family of the victim and to wider society if the Attorney General was to take a look at this case and the sentence," he said. SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood said: "The judicial system needs to look at this case specifically and in these kinds of cases generally."
Sinn Fein Assembly Member Maeve McLaughlin also offered her support to Mr Morrison's family.
"They are clearly distressed by the sentence given in court and I will assist them in any way I can if they chose to go down the route of an appeal," she said
The court had heard how Roulston had been drinking in several bars with his victim, who he did not previously know. Mr Morrison and Roulston were seen on CCTV in each other's company in three different bars. Both had been drinking heavily and enjoying each other's company. At one stage they had a disagreement when Mr Morrison challenged Roulston about the manner in which he spoke to a group of women.
Both men went into O'Donnell's Bar in Waterloo Street, but because of their drunken condition the barman refused to serve them alcohol. Both men had another argument and left the bar. Roulston left his bag behind in the bar and Mr Morrison returned it to him, but as he did so Roulston without provocation and without warning punched him once with his left fist.
"The punch came out of the blue, so to speak," said Judge Philip Babington. "Several witnesses speak of a crack or a thump as Peter's head hit the pavement. Once he hit the ground he did not move."
Roulston was arrested at his home in Strabane several hours later. He said he couldn't remember much because of the amount of alcohol he'd consumed but he said he was very sorry, and he did not contest the CCTV evidence when it was shown to him.
Judge Babington said although Roulston, who had two assault convictions, had been caught red-handed, he intended giving him considerable credit.
He said a pre-sentence report said Roulston, a keep fit enthusiast, accepted responsibility for his actions and now received counselling in relation to low mood and anxiety related to the incident.
Roulston was sentenced for two years and four months, half of which he will serve in jail and half on licence.