A seven-and-a-half year jail term imposed on a man who beat his soldier friend so ferociously he had to be medically discharged from the army was unduly lenient, the Court of Appeal ruled today.
Senior judges ordered Melvyn Bamber to serve an extra 12 months in prison for kicking and stamping on Alexander Dowie's head as he lay unconscious outside a petrol station in Ballymena, Co Antrim.
Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan identified a series of aggravating factors, such as inflicting repeated blows on the victim who was left in a coma for several weeks.
He said: "The attack upon him has had a significant and life changing impact on him."
Bamber, 25, and formerly of Clonavon Terrace, Ballymena, had pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm in the assault at the North Road all-night filling station in the early hours of December 27, 2011.
But Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory QC took the case to the Court of Appeal in a bid to have the sentence increased.
Judges were told how Bamber, who had been out on police bail, had felled Mr Dowie with a single punch when they met at the Maxol garage after both had been out separately for a night's drinking.
Witnesses had observed the defendant repeatedly kick and stamp on the victim's head. He also leant down picked up his head and punched him again.
Mr Dowie suffered severe brain injuries as well as a fractured skull, fracture to the nose and cheekbone.
At the time he was a serving soldier in the Royal Irish Regiment, with a distinguished career involving service in Afghanistan.
But as a result of his injuries he had to be discharged from the military on medical grounds.
Although he has since made a better recovery than initially expected, Mr McGrory stressed: "But for the grace of God Mr Dowie could have been much more seriously injured."
Ruling on the prosecution challenge, Sir Declan, sitting with Lord Justice Coghlin and Mr Justice Maguire, agreed with the trial judge's description of the attack as "ferocious and brutal".
Bamber's record for violence, the persistent blows he inflicted on a vulnerable victim during the drink-fuelled attack in a public place, and his attempt to destroy clothing afterwards were all held to be serious aggravating factors.
"We come to the conclusion that the sentence was unduly lenient," Sir Declan said.
"We consider that we should interfere with it and we are going to substitute the sentence of seven-and-a-half years with one of eight-and-a-half years imprisonment."
Dressed in a grey suit, Bamber showed no emotion as he was escorted out of court in handcuffs to be returned to jail.