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9 September 2016, 16:26
Three teenage soccer thugs who launched a ``devastating'' unprovoked attack on a rival fan after a Wolves match, leaving him with a life-changing brain injury, have been given custodial sentences.
Supporters Joe Wood, Connor Pearson and Joseph Lister - who were aged 13, 14 and 18 when they stamped on and kicked Watford fan Nic Cruwys - pleaded guilty at previous hearings to wounding the father-of-two.
Wolverhampton Crown Court heard that Mr Cruwys spent three weeks in a coma after being attacked in the city as he made his way from Molineux Stadium to the railway station following a match in March last year.
The 44-year-old was knocked out as he fell to the ground following a punch, and was then stamped on and kicked three times despite being unconscious.
Wood, now 15, of Woodstock Road, Wolverhampton, was ordered to be detained for 56 months after admitting wounding Mr Cruwys with intent.
Judge Simon Ward imposed a 30-month sentence on Lister, of Palmer Close, Wednesfield, Wolverhampton, after the now 19-year-old admitted wounding.
Pearson, now 16, of Ettingshall Road, Wolverhampton, also admitted wounding and was given a one-year detention and training order for his part in what Judge Ward described as the ``gratuitous degradation'' of the victim.
The judge, who passed non-custodial sentences on two other defendants for public order offences, heard that Mr Cruwys, who was not wearing club colours, was attacked while with a group of friends.
Passing sentence, Judge Ward said of the victim: ``He was injured so severely that he spent the next three weeks in a medically-induced coma and the next three months in hospital.
``He suffered extensive skull fractures and a traumatic brain injury. He was so badly injured that doctors told his family they didn't think he would survive.''
Addressing the five defendants in the dock and a sixth defendant who was present in court but will be sentenced at a later date, the judge added: ``Four of you in this room are responsible for all of that.''
Prosecutor John Hallissey told the court young children had witnessed the attack on March 7.
None of those convicted of wounding attended the match, instead gathering a pub, the court heard.
Wood, who wiped away tears and held his head in his hands after being sentenced, received a text before the attack instructing him to ``get some boys together'' after he told a friend around 80 Watford fans were at a pub.
Mr Hallissey told the court: ``Mr Cruwys had been watching the match and made his way towards the railway station in order to go home, possibly via a pub.
``He didn't get that far because he was intercepted by this group. He appears simply to have been picked out of the crowd and attacked.
``What happened to him happened in a matter of a few seconds but the consequences will last for a life-time. From a very short incident he found himself grateful to be alive.''
Former Wolves season-ticket holder Ryan Meer, 19, of Watling Street, Gailey, Staffordshire, admitted affray and was given a suspended eight-month sentence.
He was not involved in the attack and was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid community work.
Trainee estate agent Robert Beech, of Springhill Road, Wednesfield, admitted threatening behaviour and was handed a two-month suspended sentence.
Beech, 19, was also ordered to complete 100 hours of community work and given a three-year football banning order.
In a statement, Wolverhampton Wanderers said: ``Wolves can confirm that all six individuals are banned from Molineux for life.
``Wolves are pleased that those involved have been brought to justice, and would like to thank those people that came forward with their witness accounts which helped to build up a picture of events.
``The club were in contact with West Midlands Police, Watford Football Club and Nic's wife Jodie shortly following the attack, and will continue to provide whatever support possible in the future.
``Nic will never fully recover from the injuries sustained, but it is hoped that knowing that those involved have been brought to justice will provide some relief to him and his family as they try to move on and put the horrific events of that day behind them.''
Judge Ward lifted reporting restrictions preventing the media from naming Wood and Pearson, ruling that the public interest outweighed their interests as juveniles.
In a statement issued through West Midlands Police, Mr Cruwys' family added: ``Although Nic will never fully recover, we are now hoping to try and move on with our lives and try and put the horrific situation behind us.''