Four avoid prison after attack on Royal Marine

Four men who pushed a Royal Marine to the floor and kicked him unconscious have been spared prison.

Lee Hill, 21, of Belvedere Road, pleaded guilty to the charge of affray after the attack on James Wright in Exmouth town centre.

His friends, Alex Haithwaite, 21, of Exeter Road, Declan Budd, 21, of Halsdon Road, and Adam Bartlett, 21, of Southbrook Road, Exeter, pleaded guilty to Section 4 public order offences for their involvement in the same attack.

Exeter Crown Court heard that James Wright, his girlfriend and his brother, Ben, had spent the evening of May 29, 2009, at the Park Hotel.

When they left the hotel, just before midnight, they encountered a small group of young men, which included Haithwaite and Bartlett.

The group became abusive, and Haithwaite confronted Ben, who pushed him to the ground before James told his brother to let the matter rest.

They moved away down Exeter Road, but were pursued by the group, which had now been joined by Hill and Budd.

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The group appeared to be trying to provoke Ben into a fight, and, as they passed the Exmouth Arms, Ben was steered into the pub by two of its patrons, one of whom was struck by Bartlett.

Until now, James and his girlfriend had been peripheral figures in the dispute, and attempted to continue their journey home.

However, James was attacked by the gang, who pushed him to the ground and punched and kicked him, rendering him unconscious before Exmouth Arms patrons could come to his aid.

He was left needing surgery for his injuries, which included a fractured eye socket and swelling to the back of the head.

Sentencing the men, Judge Cottle said that the delay in the case coming to court may have saved them from prison.

He said: “If the defendants had all been convicted of affray nearer to the time, they would all have gone inside, but this far down the line that would not be a just end to this case.”

Hill was given a nine-month prison sentence suspended for two years, a 12-month supervision order and a three-month curfew between the hours of 8pm and 8am.

Haithwaite was given a three-month prison term suspended for two years, a 12-month supervision order and told to enrol in the ‘Thinking Skills’ programme. Budd and Bartlett were both fined �250 and ordered to pay �250 costs.