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Soldier who wounded squaddie with samurai sword at NI barracks jailed

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FRACAS: An altercation at Thiepval has had devastating consequences for two soldiers

FRACAS: An altercation at Thiepval has had devastating consequences for two soldiers

FRACAS: An altercation at Thiepval has had devastating consequences for two soldiers

A soldier who attacked and badly wounded a fellow squaddie with a samurai sword at Lisburn's Thiepval Barracks has been jailed for a year.

A drunken argument turned into a bloody fight which brought an end to the Army careers of both Rifleman Tyler Holgate - as he is going to jail - and his victim, due to his serious injuries, Craigavon Crown Court heard.

Jailing 23-year-old Holgate, Judge Patrick Lynch QC said "well Rifleman Holgate, this may be the last time you are addressed as such... it's a tragedy that an individual such as you should appear before me."

At an earlier hearing Holgate, originally from Devon but with a bail address at Dreghan Barracks in Edinburgh, admitted wounding fellow Rifleman Private Jones on October 20, 2019.

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REMORSE: Tyler Holgate

REMORSE: Tyler Holgate

REMORSE: Tyler Holgate

Opening the facts of the case on Friday, prosecuting counsel Nicola Auret said Holgate and Jones had been socialising separately but returned to Thiepval Barracks when the incident happened.

"It's clear from the statements that all parties had consumed a large amount of alcohol and therefore the prosecution is based primarily on the account of the one sober witness, Sergeant Aldridge," she said.

According to his statement, a "commotion" woke him at around 5am and when he went to investigate, he found a group of males shouting and swearing at each other on the middle floor of B company block.

Private Jones was seen to punch Holgate in the face "three or four times", so the sergeant split them up and took Holgate back to his room, ordering him to lock the door and remain until he returned.

However, two minutes later as the sergeant was talking to Jones and the other soldiers, Holgate "reappeared in the stairwell with a samurai sword in his hand...waving it at them."

Jones and his two friends "launched themselves" at Holgate, punching him several times before he brought the sword down with "forceful overhead strikes," hitting Jones on the hands and arm before Sergeant Aldridge was able to "knock the weapon out of his hand and drag him back to his room."

Jones sustained significant lacerations to both hands and his left forearm.

He lost a lot of blood and another soldier said Jones was "dipping in and out of consciousness" as they waited for an ambulance.

The victim was initially taken to the RVH before he was transferred to the Ulster Hospital and Ms Auret described how he has undergone numerous surgeries to repair muscle and tendon damage. He is facing the prospect of further surgery.

She said he still couldn't bend his left thumb, the fingers of his right hand are numb and as a result of the injuries, Private Jones has signed off from the Army.

Defence counsel Peter Coiley said Rifleman Holgate had never intended to use the sword to hurt anyone but retrieved it and was waving it around to "scare off" any potential further assault.

He claimed that early in his Army career, Holgate had "had a couple of minor interactions" akin to some sort of bullying, so when he was punched by Private Jones that night, "he just thought enough is enough, I have to stand up to these people."

"He realised the foolishness of his conduct," added Mr Coiley.

"This was a young man who would have thrived if he had settled in his career and gone on to bigger and better things.

"It's had devastating consequences for Mr Jones and he (Holgate) has asked me to put forward to the court his genuine remorse and apology."

Jailing Holgate and ordering him to serve a further 18 months under supervised licence conditions when released, Judge Lynch said while he had been assaulted earlier that was no excuse for arming himself with the potentially lethal sword.

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