A 51 year old Stroud man, who fractured his neighbour’s jaw in an unprovoked assault, walked free from court today.
Eric Haines, of Down View, Chalford Hill, near Stroud, pleaded guilty at Gloucester crown court to causing Nigel Eagers causing grievous bodily harm on May 14.
Haines was found to be suffering from ‘monothematic delusions’ at the time of the assault, Judge Jason Taylor QC heard.
The judge imposed a two year jail term suspended for eighteen months, and ordered a six month mental health treatment requirement.
Haines was also ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work as part of the sentence.
Prosecutor Grace Flynn told the judge: “The context is that the defendant and Mr Nigel Eagers are not direct next door neighbours but live close by.
“There was an altercation at 6pm.
“Mr Eagers was approached by the defendant as he washed his car. He only knew him by his first name.
“The defendant said he had just about had enough of Mr Eager’s son’s f***ing foul language.
“Mr Eagers stepped forward, and said words to the effect of ‘Is that a threat sunshine?’ another witness heard,” Ms Flynn said.
“He was then grabbed by the throat by the defendant, and then pushed to the floor.
“The victim was struck about three times he says. The defendant says it was eight to ten.”
As as result of the assault Mr Eagers had a fracture to his jawbone.
“There was a need for some surgery under general anaesthetic,” Ms Flyn said. “There are mobility issues to his jaw.”
The court heard that Haines had four previous convictions for fourteen offences, but none were for violence and the most recent was in 1993.
The court heard a statement from Mr Eagers which set out how the unprovoked assault continued to cause him and his family problems, physically, emotionally and financially.
At an earlier hearing Matthew Harbinson, representing Haines, said it was now established that his client was delusional and believed he could hear his neighbours discussing personal and private matters about his life.
“He became increasingly concerned about how his next door neighbour happened to know so much, and choosing to talk about it in such a way that he could hear it was being said.
“That was the reason he went around there,” the lawyer said. “It now appears that this could be due to a monothematic delusion.
“He is not a thug. He is as distraught and upset as anyone I have dealt with.
“As a result of this delusion, he has spent time thinking his neighbours were discussing things about him.”
Mr Harbinson referred to a ‘sense of overwhelming paranoia’.
“He did not know what was going on. He had no perception that this behaviour was delusional,” the lawyer argued.
“He repeatedly punched a man in his face who he thought he was talking about things he should not know about.
He invited the court to hear from Mr Webb about the psychiatric assessment and proposals for a way forward.
“He has welcomed the assistance and intervention of the psychiatric team,” Mr Harbinson said. “He is desperate to receive help for this previous undiagnosed problem.”
Mr Webb said: “He has disclosed that he has continued to hear derogatory statements and has not acted upon them.
“They have been ongoing since that time.
“This is the first time I have seen this. I have taken advice.
“In all other aspects of his life he is intact. He is at work. Maintains his house.
“It is quite a complex delusional construction.
“He is saying he wants help. He is recognising this is part of a mental disorder.
“He will be referred into the local recovery team.”
Today the judge imposed a suspended jail term and made it a requirement of the sentence that Haines was subject to mental health treatment for six months.
He told Haines: “You are 51 and fall to be sentenced for unlawful wounding.
“It is obvious to me that a clear indication that a non custodial sentence was being considered by Judge Lawrie QC.
“There was a dispute with your neighbour, and a verbal altercation.
“You grabbed him by the throat. Punched him repeatedly mostly when on the floor.”
At this point Haines said from the dock: “So he says. I never grabbed him around the throat.”
Judge Taylor reprimanded Haines: “It is probably best you stay quiet.”
He referred the Mr Eagers’ ‘understandable psychological issues’ following what he described as a ‘vicious unprovoked attack’.
“This was a sustained assault.
“You have difficulties. You have shown some remorse.”
The judge imposed an indefinite restraining order to prevent Haines contacting Mr Eagers.
“You need to understand that if there are any further issues with your neighbour you will come back to court,” Judge Taylor explained.
“If you breach it you will stand the risk of the suspended sentence being activated. So stay away from your neighbour.”