Man punches woman, gets prosecuted, and gets a custodial sentence. Sadly, an everyday occurrence in Courtrooms up and down the land.
What made this story, that popped up into our twitter feed, a bit more unusual was that the incident was from 1975.
In December 1975 Patrick Ackroyd, then aged 21, was having an argument with his sister Anita about John Lennon’s hymn to peace “Happy Christmas (War is Over)“.
The argument got more than heated, and Mr Ackroyd punched Anita once in the face, knocking out her two front teeth. Anita, who was 17 at the time, went to hospital. She was told by her mother to not tell the police.
However, in 2011, she went to the police. Mr Ackroyd was interviewed the next year and made full admissions to the offence. For reasons that aren’t clear, it did not come to Court until this year and, after pleading guilty, Mr Ackroyd was sentenced on 16th November 2015.
Mr Ackroyd was sentenced to 2 months in prison, suspended for 12 months.
The starting point would be the Sentencing Guidelines for Assault (page 12). As to the Harm, it would depend whether knocking teeth out would be injury that is more or less serious ‘in the context of’ ABH.
It is difficult to say (in fairness, it is probably neither – it’s in the middle), but maybe due to the impact on the victim it can be considered to be Greater Harm. With respect to culpability, it is again not easily categorised, but it is probably Lower.
This gives a starting point of 6 months, with a range of a Community Order up to a year.
Mr Ackroyd is of ‘good character’ – he had never been in trouble before this incident or since. This is always a relevant factor, but is all the more relevant in case such as this where he has not done anything in the 40 years since.
So, on the Guidelines, the sentence is probably fair enough, and it is clearly sensible to suspend it. For that reason, there is unlikely to be an appeal.
The question of how you deal with historic allegations is a difficult one. It has usually arisen with sexual allegations, but this is a reminder that it can relate to other offences to.
The impact on the victim was clearly large “Everyday I am reminded of what he did … Everyday I have to stick a plate in my mouth with two false front teeth … Even after all these years it is too painful to think about“.
Before any prosecution is brought, the CPS need to consider whether there is a public interest in bring it. This is a difficult issue, but I would question whether it was necessary in this case, bearing in mind the length of time since it happened and that this was a one off incident.
At least this case did not have the even more difficult question of how you can make a jury sure of events that happened so many years ago.