Soldiers spared jail after Guildford assaultBy Amy Taylor
January 16, 2013
THREE soldiers have each been ordered to complete 99 hours of community service for a "continued attack" on a passer-by, after a judge agreed not to interfere with their army careers.
Simon Burton, Andrew Watson and Mark Maginnis, serving members of the Irish Guards based in Aldershot, kicked and punched a man to the ground after a drunken night out in Guildford on December 4 last year.
They were caught on CCTV in Bridge Street shortly after midnight and pleaded guilty to a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm at Guildford Magistrates’ Court on December 18.
The trio were sentenced at Guildford Crown Court on Friday (January 11), but Judge Peter Moss was unable to view footage of the incident due to malfunctioning equipment.
The judge said the defendants "may very well be fortunate the material can’t be played" and that he was therefore relying on a verbal account of the attack.
He said what they had done would have been shocking by anybody’s standard, but the fact they were soldiers made it worse.
“You brought disgrace to your regiment, which has a very long and proud history,” he said.
Piers Reed, prosecuting, told the court the three men had been out for a "very good evening" when they came across the victim, Robert Lewis, talking on his mobile phone and "minding his own business".
“For reasons which are unclear on CCTV, it appears the victim is backing away holding up his hands,” he said, adding that Maginnis, 22, was the first to attack, with Burton, 23, and Watson, 30, joining in shortly after.
“He [Maginnis] suddenly delivers the first punch without any warning, with a right clenched fist, causing the victim to stumble but not fall to the ground.”
The court heard how the others joined in, punching and kicking, until they forced Mr Lewis into the road in front of a car, which had to swerve to avoid him. Even as he fell they continued to attack him, until the victim was seen lying in the foetal position.
A woman who witnessed the attack was seen in the footage crossing the road and putting herself between the victim and defendants, said Mr Reed.
He told the court all three soldiers, who gave their address as Mons Barracks in Princes Avenue, were horrified by what they saw on CCTV during their police interviews after they had sobered up, but they had "no memory" of the attack in which Mr Lewis was left with only "superficial injuries", including cuts and bruises.
Sentencing, Judge Moss said he had been "urged" by reports from the soldiers’ superiors not to issue a sentence which would see them automatically dismissed from the army.
“One hundred hours would automatically dismiss you,” he said. “So it has to be one hour less than 100.
It may appear like a lenient sentence but I know that those in rank will be demoted and those that are not will not be promoted.
"This results in financial loss. None of you are fit to hold any rank at all. It doesn’t really bear thinking about what could have happened.”
Each soldier was ordered to complete a 12-month community order of 99 hours of unpaid work, and to pay costs of £400 by March 15.