A FATHER who was left unconscious with a fractured skull says he is “disgusted” after the soldier who brutally attacked him was spared jail.
Samuel Rowlands beat dad-of-five John Laycock so badly that he suffered bleeding in his skull, is now partially deaf, continues to be in pain and is being treated for depression.
The self-employed steel fabricator says that stress as a result of the attack has led to a split from his wife Leanne, his business has been devastated and mounting debts mean his family may lose their Westhoughton home.
He said: “My life and my children’s lives will never be the same again.
“Financially it has ruined me and my family, but mentally and physically it’s much worse.”
Bolton Crown Court heard how, on July 24 last year, 40-year-old Mr Laycock and his wife, Leanne, 37, had gone into Westhoughton town centre for night out.
Mr Laycock says it was a rare treat as their time is usually spent caring for their five children, two of whom have disabilities and who range in age from six to 18.
At 1.15am Mrs Laycock decided to go home but her husband, who admits he had had a lot to drink, went to find food at a takeaway.
On Market Street he encountered off-duty soldier Rowlands, then aged 18.
Michael Brady, prosecuting, said Mr Laycock is unable to remember details of the attack.
He told the court: “He remembers people round him and a blow to the head, but thereafter only remembers waking up in hospital.”
Samuel Rowlands' image from the CCTV issued by police
However, Westhoughton town centre CCTV cameras managed to capture part of the assault.
The judge in the case, Recorder Julian Shaw, was played footage showing Mr Laycock and Rowlands, who was wearing a coat, crossing Market Street together.
The attack began in a side street out of view of the camera, but a short time later the film shows the pair again, with Mr Laycock lying unconscious on the Market Street pavement and Rowlands, by now stripped to the waist, beating him.
Recorder Shaw said: “This sort of disgusting violence on the streets of this country has no place whatsoever.”
Rowlands, who is from Westhoughton and is currently training as an armourer based at MOD Lyneham in Wiltshire, left Mr Laycock on the pavement.
Mr Brady told the court: “After the incident he hadn’t given it any more thought. He said he thought Mr Laycock only had bumps and bruises.”
Rowlands was only identified after an image of him from the CCTV was issued together with a police appeal published in The Bolton News.
Samuel Rowlands in his army uniform
Several people came forward who recognised him, Rowlands spoke to his commanding officer and police were contacted.
In court Mr Laycock, who spent four days in hospital after the attack, had opted to read his victim impact statement to the judge himself.
But he was too distressed after seeing the CCTV footage for the first time — and his wife read it out instead.
She told how, since the attack, Mr Laycock has suffered from depression and contemplated suicide on several occasions.
He suffers from nightmares, memory loss, severe migraines and tinnitus and finds it hard to accept he will have to wear a hearing aid for the rest of his life.
In his statement Mr Laycock added: “I cannot cope with loud or certain pitched noises, so can’t take my own sons to watch football matches anymore — which is something me and the kids can no longer enjoy together.
“What he has done will affect all my family forever and I will never get over the trauma of it all. He could have very easily killed me that night.”
Andrew Costello, defending, told the court that Rowlands, who has no previous convictions, had pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm at the first opportunity.
Mr Costello said: “He is genuinely remorseful for his actions.”
“While the outcome and the offence is grotesque, he was walking home and did not go looking for trouble.”
Platoon sergeant Matthew Squibb, of Rowlands’ 112 Alamein Company, told Recorder Shaw that the defendant has had no discipline record with the Army.
Sgt Squibb said: “He is a model student, especially with all this hanging over him.”
He added that Rowlands’ career with the Army would be ended if he was sent to jail.
Recorder Shaw sentenced Rowlands, now aged 19, to two years in prison, suspended for two years and ordered that he pay Mr Laycock £2,000 compensation as token recognition of his suffering.
He must also pay £250 towards prosecution costs and a £100 victim surcharge.
The judge said the sentencing decision had been difficult.
He said: “For 30 seconds of madness he ruins this man’s life.
“I am particularly struck by the integrity you belatedly showed in coming forward and holding your hands up for this.
“It is in sharp contrast to the cowardly behaviour you showed on the street.
“If you ever come back before the courts again for offences of violence don’t expect any judge to have sympathy.
“If you are allowed to remain in Her Majesty’s forces you need to work hard to regain the trust of society which you threw away on that night.”
The sentence was criticised by Mr Laycock, who stressed that Rowlands had been so readily identified that he had no choice but to hand himself in.
After the case Mr Laycock said: “It is just absolutely disgusting.
“I feel I am still in a prison sentence myself because of what he did and will continue to be so.
“My life has been destroyed but he can go on with his life without a care in the world.”