MY CLOTHES PROMPTED ASSAULT SAYS 'GOTH'
Express & Echo, UK -
Attack victim Anthony O'Neill believes his "Goth" clothing was the likely trigger for a violent street assault which left him needing stitches to his face.
Mr O'Neill voiced his relief after a jury at Exeter Crown Court yesterday unanimously found Ashley Matthews guilty of assaulting him, causing him actual bodily harm.
Matthews, 20, of Midway, Exmouth, had denied the offence against Mr O'Neill, a follower of the Gothic rock scene, in an incident on Friday, February 10, 2006.
Mr O'Neill, who was 19 at the time, had visited the Famous Old Barrel pub in Exmouth town centre with friends and was walking through the neighbouring car park when he was assaulted.
He was wearing a distinctive long black leather coat and black hat.
Witnesses described Matthews grabbing Mr O'Neill's hat, then following him as he tried to walk away, punching him to the ground.
The court heard Matthews kicked him as he lay on the ground, leaving Mr O'Neill needing hospital treatment and several stitches to his face.
Matthews claimed he was acting in self-defence and had only punched Mr O'Neill once after being attacked by him first.
But a passer-by told the jury how she saw a man matching Mr O'Neill's description lying on the floor, being kicked by another man.
Defence counsel Gareth Evans said in mitigation, after the verdict, that Matthews had no previous convictions for violence and his behaviour that night was out of character.
Matthews had one previous conviction for theft in 2003, a warning for disorderly behaviour in the same year and a reprimand for criminal damage in 2002.
Recorder Nicholas Hall adjourned sentencing until February 6 and released Matthews on unconditional bail.
He told him: "Kicking a person on the ground would normally attract a custodial sentence.
"There may be circumstances that could lead to a suspended sentence or attract a community penalty, so I invite the probation service to prepare a report. Can I make it clear that the fact that I'm asking for a report on you does not rule out a custodial sentence."
Mr O'Neill, from Exmouth, said he had been in the public gallery when the verdict was announced because he wanted to see justice done. He told the Echo, after sentencing: "I'm happy with the verdict and I definitely wanted to be here today to see what happened.
"I haven't got a clue why he attacked me. I'd say it was probably because of the way I was dressed. When I woke up afterwards, I felt confused. I wasn't 100 per cent sure why I was being taken to hospital or what was going on. For a while it messed me up. I even stopped wearing my hat and long coat when I went out.
" What helped was that I had a lot of support from family and friends."
Mr O'Neill said he also thanked PC Sean Cashin, the officer in the case, and prosecutor Emma Smith, for their help.
"I've come to terms with it now but for a while after the attack I felt really anxious," he said.
"The court case has been at the back of my mind for the last year and a half and I'm just glad it's all over."