Two men sentenced for attack on coma victim - Luton

14/11/2014

Coma victim Henry Huggins remained in his deep sleep today, Friday, 14 November 2014, as the man who stamped on his head was given an extended sentence of 17 years.

Henry has never regained consciousness since the attack 15 months ago. Medical experts say he never will.

Today, Stuart Docherty, who carried out the sickening attack outside Henry's home in August 2013, was told by Judge David Farrell QC: "What you did was an appalling act of cowardice and violence.  It was a heinous and grossly wicked act."

Henry, aged 48, who is known to friends and family by his nickname 'Chin,' has been left in a "persistent vegetative state," because of the injuries he suffered that day.

At Luton Crown Court, Judge Farrell QC told Docherty that after Mr Huggins had been knocked to the ground and was unconscious, he had attempted to "finish him off." The judge told him: "You ran and jumped onto his head and you have a direct responsibility for the horrific injuries Mr Huggins has sustained."

Docherty, aged 40, of Townsley, Luton, appeared for sentence today, having earlier pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) with intent and theft of a ring and watch belonging to Mr Huggins.

The Judge told Docherty that the extended 17 year sentence means the minimum term of imprisonment would be 12 years, of which he must serve 8 years before he can be considered for parole. Docherty was told that even then, there would be no guarantee he would get out after 8 years. The Judge also ordered that once he is released, he will be the subject of an extended period of licence, so that if released after 8 years, he could expect to be on licence for a further 9 years.

With him in the dock was 40-year-old James Early. At a trial last month, Early was cleared of causing GBH with intent to Henry, but convicted of an alternative charge of assaulting him occasioning him actual bodily harm (ABH).

Henry lived with his girlfriend in a flat on Whipperley Ring on the Farley Hill Estate in Luton, Beds. James Early lived in a neighbouring flat and there was a history of bad feeling between them.  Henry, a black man, had been subjected to threats of violence, as well as racial taunts in the weeks leading up to the attack. One reason for the animosity was because Henry's dog could be aggressive and troublesome.

During Mr Early's trial, the jury was told that he and his friend Docherty, who was a regular visitor to his flat, decided to "sort Henry Huggins out" when the opportunity arose.It was on the afternoon of 08 August 2013, that Mr Huggins was spotted by the pair arriving outside the flats without his dog. Early left his flat and, in a confrontation with Mr Huggins, punched him to the ground. In the fall, Mr Huggins struck his head on a concrete pathway.

Early left the scene, only for his friend Docherty to go up to the unconscious Henry and stamp on his head. Docherty pretended to check the pulse of his victim, when in fact he was stealing his watch and removing a ring from his finger.

Prosecutor Michael Speak said: "It turned out the damage done to Henry Huggins by that assault was nothing short of catastrophic.  He has never woken up since the day this happened. Mr Huggins has sustained a serious and irreversible brain injury and is in a persistent vegetative state and won't recover.  He will remain as he is until, at some point, he passes away."

Because of the injuries Mr Huggins received that day, the oxygen supply to his brain had been interrupted. "He has little or no brain activity and will never wake up and resume a normal life" said Mr Speak.

After Judge Farrell had sentenced Docherty, he jailed Early for two and a half years.  The judge said that although he accepted that before the attack Early had tried to resolve matters peacefully with Mr Huggins concerning his dog, he had in the end decided to resort to violence, telling a friend on the day of the attack that he had had enough and that something "was going to happen." He said after Early had punched Henry three times, his victim fell to the ground hitting his head on the concrete pathway with a "sound" that had made him run off.

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