Step Into Christmas Elton John
4 April 2012, 14:10
A court's heard a single punch thrown at a middle aged father enjoying a night out with his son in Bedford had tragic consequences when he fell to the ground, striking his head.
Kevin Harrison, 48, (right) from Raunds, Northamptonshire, suffered a catastrophic brain injury and, after lapsing into a coma, never recovered.
The panel beater died a week later in hospital having never regained consciousness.
On Tuesday 3rd April the man who threw the punch, 24 year old Ravi Sandhu, was jailed for 5 years after being found guilty of Mr Harrison's manslaughter.
Passing sentence at Luton Crown Court, Judge Richard Foster told Sandhu, a father of one, "This case is yet another sad reminder of the effects of excessive consumption of alcohol which the police have to deal with in town centres across the country in the early hours when pubs and bars close.
"Too often violence erupts in a situation that would never have erupted but for drink."
During the week long trial, the jury heard how Kevin Harrison's wife Trish, 45, was on the phone to him from their home when she suddenly heard him get caught up in an argument in Bedford town centre that was to lead to his death.
Trish, a chemist shop worker, had woken up in the early hours of Sunday September 11 last year and was concerned to find that Kevin was still not home.
When she rang him from their home in Raunds, Northamptonshire, Kevin told her that he was looking for their 18 year old son Jack after the two had become separated.
Trish told the jury "He said 'Don't worry, I am really fine. I have not been arrested or stabbed. I have been a good boy.' It did make me laugh a little bit."
But she went on: "I heard another voice say 'What the f...k are you looking at?' and I heard Kev say 'What do you mean what am I looking at?' He didn't understand what was happening. I think his phone must have come away from his mouth because the voices seemed to get further away.
"By that time, I was screaming down the phone, saying 'Kevin! What's going on, what's happening?.' Then it went dead. I kept calling him. I didn't know what to do. I called him back, but it went through to his voicemail."
Just a few hours earlier, Kevin and Jack had said goodbye to Trish at their home as the pair left for a trip into Bedford to meet up with a party of friends who were celebrating a birthday.
As he left, Kevin joked to Trish, "Don't worry, I will behave myself."
But, at the end of the night and in the early hours of that Sunday morning, the father and son had become separated and cctv clips played at the trial showed Kevin, who had been drinking, walking around the town centre looking for Jack and using his mobile phone.
Also out in the town centre that night was 24 year old Mr Sandhu of Kathie Road in Bedford. The father of one had also been drinking with his fiancee in bars and clubs around the town.
He and members of his family had been out that night to celebrate a cousin's birthday.
At around 4am, he and some of his cousins were on the pavement outside a nightclub in the High Street, when Mr Harrison came past them and accidentally knocked into one of them. The incident was caught on cctv and there was a confrontation with members of Sandhu's group surrounding Mr Harrison, who was waving his arms.
A police officer stepped in and ushered Mr Sandhu and his group on their way. In fact, the defendant and his party walked around the corner into the nearby St Paul's Square, where they stood by a bus stop.
Moments later, Mr Harrison - still on his phone - walked into the square and there was a second confrontation.
Without warning, Sandhu lashed out, throwing a single punch at Mr Harrison, who was standing on the kerb.
The punch hit him in the mouth, but he fell heavily into the road and suffered an appalling head and brain injury from which he never recovered.
It was Kevin and Trish's second marriage and they had just celebrated their 8th wedding anniversary in August of last year. Between them they had four grown up children (two from each of their first marriages).
After being attacked, Kevin spent a week fighting for his life in Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.
Medical teams fought around the clock to relieve the pressure around his brain, but complications set in and he died on September 18, having never regained consciousness.
In the witness box, Mr Sandhu had claimed he had thrown the punch at Kevin in self defence.
He claimed he feared he and his group were about to be attacked by Mr Harrison following the earlier argument in the High Street outside the Hi Fi nightclub.
Passing sentence, Judge Foster told Sandhu: "What is clear to me is that Kevin Harrison was a 48 year old harmless man, who was very drunk. He was no threat to anyone apart from perhaps himself."
The judge said there had been no aggressiveness or maliciousness in the first incident outside the nightclub in which Mr Harrison had apparently bumped into a member of Sandhu's group.
But he told Sandhu his reaction to it had been to see it as some sort of "breach of honour."
The judge said that when Mr Harrison walked into St Paul's Square, he had been "completely harmless and on the phone to his wife."
Judge Foster paid tribute to Trish Harrison, saying she had shown "dignity" giving evidence.
The judge told Sandhu his victim that night had been over twice his age and very drunk.
"He was not only harmless, but vulnerable."
Judge Foster jailed Sandhu for five years.
Outside the court, Mrs Harrison said: "Two much of this one punch crime is happening and needs to stop. People need to be made aware that a fist can be just as dangerous to a person as a gun or knife.
"If a person is shot dead or knifed that is murder. Just remember a fist can be just as deadly and should be treated in the same way.
"One totally mindless action has totally destroyed our lives and taken an absolutely remarkable person from us. Our lives will never be the same."
She praised the staff at Addenbrooke's Hospital who had cared for her husband during his week long battle for life.
She said: "They were so amazing and never gave up on him. They are such dedicated people. They made a totally unbearable time just a little bit more bearable. I hope that the fundraising we have been able to do for them will go towards helping others."