Man avoids jail over King’s Arms assault

Edinburgh Sheriff Court. File picture: Ian Georgeson
Edinburgh Sheriff Court. File picture: Ian Georgeson
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A YOUNG man, who attacked a 59-year-old stranger outside a pub, by punching him to the ground and then kicking him as he lay there, has been placed on a supervised Community Payback Order for two years, ordered to perform 300 hours of unpaid work and to pay his victim £4000 compensation.

James Spence, 29, of Craigmillar Castle Road, Edinburgh, was told by Sheriff John Beckett QC at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today: “It is with the greatest hesitation I do not send you to prison”. Spence had pled guilty previously to assaulting Allan Butler on April 12 last year in Home Street, Edinburgh, to his severe injury, permanent disfigurement and impairment. Sentence had been deferred for reports. Spence was a first offender.

Fiscal Depute, Lewis Crosbie, said Mr Butler had been drinking in the King’s Arms pub when he went outside for a cigarette. Spence had also been in the pub, but the two men did not know each other. Mr Butler offered Spence a light for his cigarette, and, said the Fiscal, some remark was made. Spence then punched his victim several times on the head, knocking him to the ground and then kicking him. A witness shouted at Spence to stop the attack. He did, went into the pub for his jacket and left.

Mr Butler was taken by ambulance to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary where he was found to have fractures to his eye socket and nose. Metal plates had to be inserted and he would be permanently scarred. Sheriff Beckett heard that Mr Butler was still off work and could not drive because of double-vision.

Defence solicitor, Carol Gowans, told Sheriff Beckett that her client had been in an “emotional turmoil”. His father had died on April 10 the year before. His birthday should have been on the 11th and Spence was struggling very hard in relation to his bereavement. Also, she said, he had fallen out with his partner on April 12 this year, the day of the attack, and went drinking. “What has been clear to me,” she said, “is he is genuinely very remorseful for his behaviour and ashamed of his actions”.

Sheriff Beckett told Spence: “This was an entirely innocent man of 59, who had not provoked you in any way whatsoever. Such gratuitous violence merits a prison sentence”.

But, he added, Parliament had said first offenders should not be sent to prison, if there was a suitable alternative.

“I find it extremely difficult to find this,” said the Sheriff, but because of what he had been told in the Social Work report and Spence’s good work record he was prepared to impose the alternative. Sheriff Beckett said the 300 hours of work had to be completed within 12 months and the £4000 compensation paid at £350 a month.