A WELSH Guardsman who blinded his best friend in a barrack-room brawl by gouging both his eyes out must stay in a secure hospital indefinitely, Appeal Court judges decided this week.

Justin Owen and Clive Jones had been friends for seven years and were both corporals in the regiment based at the Bruneval Barracks in Aldershot when a fight broke out between them in December 2000, London’s Court of Criminal Appeal heard.

As Mr Jones gained the upper hand, Owen lost consciousness. He came round to find Mr Jones sitting on top of him and beating him. Owen then gouged his eyes out.

Thirty-two-year-old Northern Ireland veteran Owen, who was best man at Mr Jones’s wedding and godfather to his daughter, pleaded self defence at his trial, but was convicted at Winchester Crown Court of wounding with intent.

On December 7, 2001 the trial judge ordered him to be detained in a mental hospital indefinitely after hearing that he suffered from a psychiatric illness.

On Tuesday Owen unsuccessfully appealed against his conviction and against the trial judge’s decision to make the hospital order indefinite.

The Recorder of Leeds, Judge Norman Jones, told the Appeal Court it was the defence case that, in the initial stages of the fight, it was Mr Jones who had Owen by the throat and up against a locker.

Mr Jones was said to have sat on top of Owen and, when the latter came round, he “instinctively poked his eyes out”.

It was the Crown’s case that Owen was the aggressor and medical reports revealed he had received treatment for severe paranoid schizophrenia.

It was Owen’s case that it was self defence, and witnesses had been called to testify that Mr Jones was “an aggressive man by nature and larger than Owen,” the judge said.

But, dismissing Owen’s appeal against conviction, Judge Jones, who was sitting with Mr Justice Elias, rejected arguments that the judge had not properly directed the jury on what constituted self defence.

He also ruled the trial judge had been entitled to impose the indefinite hospital order having assessed all the evidence.

Concluding, Judge Jones said: “We are satisfied the trial judge took the views of the medical experts into account, but concluded Owen was a serious risk to the public.”