Street attacker jailed - St Albans

05/04/2013

An elderly woman suffered two broken elbows and a man in his 50s has lost nearly all sight in one eye after being attacked in the street in St Albans by Christopher Hughes.

Hughes, 26, was jailed for 7 years today, Friday, 05 April 2013, with a 5 year extension to his sentence, which means he will be supervised by probation officers on his release from prison.

Sally Mealing-McLeod, prosecuting for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) told St Albans Crown Court that on 19 September last year Peter Forster, who is in his 50s, was walking along Victoria Street.  When he was near the Maltings he tripped over Hughes' bike wheel.

"Mr Forster immediately apologised, but the defendant became aggressive and accused him of deliberately kicking the wheel.

"He delivered a barrage of punches and strikes to Mr Forster's face and head. The victim went to the ground and the defendant continued the assault, kicking him a number of times," said the prosecutor.

Mr Forster, whose left eye had been damaged before the attack, suffered a ruptured cornea and a detached retina. He has undergone an operation and requires more surgery. He has no vision from the eye apart from being able to count the fingers on his hand.

Then at around midday on 8 November Patricia Shay, aged 84, was in St Peter's Street when Hughes' bike, which was by a tree, blocked her path. She asked him to move it, but he refused and said: "No - go the other way."

When Mrs Shay, who was shocked, stood there Hughes used both hands to push her in the chest. She fell to the ground and was hurt. She was taken to Watford Hospital where she needed surgery to her broken right elbow. The left elbow was also fractured, but did not require an operation. The stiffness she still suffers to the elbow may be permanent, said Ms Mealing-McLeod.

Hughes was arrested after being identified by CCTV on 11 November last year. When questioned he said he believed Mr Forster had kicked his bike and claimed Mrs Shay had harassed him.

Bespectacled Hughes of Firwood Avenue, St Albans pleaded guilty to two charges of causing grievous bodily harm with intent. He had no previous convictions.

Defence barrister Henry Day said Hughes, who was supported in court by his parents, expressed remorse. Since being remanded in custody for the past five months he said he had been helping other inmates to write letters and was working in the prison library.

In a report prepared for Judge John Plumstead, psychiatrist Dr Jeya Balakrishna said he was of the view that Hughes was suffering from an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well as "impairment" of brain functioning in "adverse social situations." He said there had been changes in Hughes' demeanour in the last three years which in time could lead to a "paranoid condition."

Sentencing him, the judge said: "The violence was unprovoked and utterly unjustified." He said he regarded him as "dangerous."

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