CCTV: Friends who left man brain damaged jailed for 16-and-a-half years
TWO friends who left a man brain damaged in a sickening attack have been jailed for a total of 16-and-a-half years.
Law student Thomas Field and Joe Cadogan, both 23, repeatedly punched and kicked the stranger as he lay defenceless on the floor of a city club.
Plymouth Crown Court heard Alex Wheeler, aged 25, was left with bleeding on the brain and may never fully recover.
Judge Graham Cottle told the pair: “In a matter of seconds, in an outburst of unprovoked and savage violence, you shattered his life and his dreams.
“You are lucky you have not been convicted of murder and are not about to start a life sentence.”
The judge jailed Field, who had denied a charge of grievous bodily harm with intent, for 10 years.
He sent Cadogan, who admitted the same charge, to prison for six and a half years.
Field looked stunned and friends and family cried as the sentences were passed.
Alex’s Dad, Mr Wheeler, said after the sentence: “When Field and Cadogan come out of prison they can get on with their lives but for my son, and for the rest of our family, we’ve got to live with this forever.
“At the end of the day Field and Cadogan nearly killed my son. And if Field had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity we wouldn’t have had to be dragged through this all again.”
Judge Cottle insisted that the packed sentencing court was again played CCTV coverage from the Bang! Bang! club in North Hill taken in the early hours of November 27, 2011.
He said: “Any member of the public obliged to sit through that piece of footage would be appalled and sickened by the level of gratuitous violence displayed.”
The film shows Field aiming a flurry of punches at Mr Wheeler. Mr Wheeler stumbles to the ground and Field knocks him down with a punch as he tries to get up. He then stamps on Mr Wheeler and Cadogan knees him and punches him, all while he is on the ground.
Field later steps over the unconscious man as he leaves the club. Both defendants were very drunk at the time, the court was told.
Judge Cottle said it was a matter of chance whether a victim lived or died if they were kicked in the head while lying on the floor.
He said Alex Wheeler, who was forced to give evidence in the trial, was “decent, hard-working and law-abiding”.
Judge Cottle said: “He was a talented carpenter; he was saving hard to buy a house and was engaged to be married.
“He had virtually his whole life ahead of him. It gives me no pleasure to pass custodial sentences upon you, but the law must take its course.”
The court heard that Field, of Ladysmith Road, St Judes, and Cadogan, of Old Hazard Cottages, Totnes, were both of previous good character.
Judge Cottle said the defendants would have to “put their lives on hold” for years but at least they could return to the community as able-bodied men.
The court heard that Mr Wheeler has had difficulties at work and extended psychological problems. His character had changed and he needed substantial care from his family day-to-day.
Nick Lewin, for Cadogan, said he felt “deep-seated shame” for what he called “three or four seconds of “out-of-character” madness.
He added Cadogan had not started the incident, which the court heard spiralled out of control after a drink was spilled. Mr Lewin said Cadogan had turned to his local church after the attack and had seen counsellors about his drinking.
Ali Rafati, for Field, also said he had “lost control” for a matter of seconds.
He added he had been studying law at Plymouth University, with an ambition to be a lawyer or barrister, and also did voluntary work.
Mr Rafati said Field was acting like a father to his young stepson. He added that he felt disgust for what he had done.
Alex’s Dad, Mr Wheeler, said after the case: “It’s been such a traumatic time for us all. Alex nearly died. He was off work for months, lost over £10,000 in earnings and still hasn’t fully recovered. We didn’t go to court to see Field and Cadogan get sentenced to gloat – we needed closure. “Alex was completely innocent in all of this and that has been proved.”