Practice and Procedure

R v GREEN (2003)

PUBLISHED July 4, 2003

A sentence of four years' imprisonment was manifestly excessive for an offence of inflicting grievous bodily harm where there was only a single punch which did not directly cause the serious injuries. A sentence of three years was appropriateAppeal with leave of the single judge against a sentence of four years' imprisonment for an offence of inflicting grievous bodily harm contrary to s.20 Offences Against The Person Act 1861. The defendant ('G') pleaded guilty on 9 December 2002 and was sentenced on 7 January 2003 at Nottingham Crown Court by HH Judge Bennett. On 19 June 2002 G and a friend, who had both been drinking heavily, went to a house to find a man they wanted to speak to. The door was opened by the man's mother who told G and his friend that her son was out. A neighbour, the victim ('V'), placed himself between the woman and the two men and told her to shut the door. G punched V in the face, he jerked back, banged his head on the wall and fell to the floor. V was rendered unconscious and a CT scan revealed multiple brain injury. He had a blood clot removed and was on a life support machine until 23 June 2002. His condition improved but he was left with dysphasia associated with the brain injury and anxiety. G was arrested and in interview stated he had punched V once which made him fall back and hit his head on the wall. That was supported by the evidence of an independent witness. No statement could be taken from V because of the level of his injury. G was originally charged with the more serious offence, contrary to s.18 of the 1861 Act, to which he pleaded not guilty. When sentencing, the judge described the offence as a mindless attack on a perfectly innocent member of the public. G had seven previous convictions for violence. The judge held that the maximum sentence was five years' imprisonment and then took into account his plea of guilty. G appealed sentence on the ground that it was too near the maximum given that he had only inflicted a single unpremeditated blow whilst drunk.HELD: (1) In R v Coleman (1992) 13 CAR (S) 508 it was observed that the starting point for a case involving a single blow where the victim fell and death resulted was 12 months' imprisonment. This was not such a case as G could not say he did not directly cause the injury given that this was an entirely unprovoked attack. However, it was not a sustained attack and the blow was not the sole cause of the injury. (2) If the trial had been contested the maximum sentence would not have been imposed. The sentence of four years would be quashed and a sentence of three years be substituted.Appeal allowed.