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One punch that changed two men’s lives

Liam Cromwell jailed for one year.

A YOUNG Shetland offshore oil worker’s promising career was cut short at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Thursday when he was jailed for a single punch that has left his victim in need of constant daily care for the rest of his life.

Last month 22 year old Liam Cromwell, of 61 King Fisher Drive, Inverurie, pled guilty to assaulting the man, causing severe injury, permanent disfigurement and endangering his life.

He also admitted the assault, which happened outside the Clydesdale Bank in Lerwick on 10 August last year, had been aggravated by religious prejudice.

It happened when two groups of friends, who had been out drinking on a Saturday night, exchanged insults over rival Glasgow football teams Rangers and Celtic.

The court heard that his victim punched first and walked away, but Cromwell followed him and after a brief verbal exchange landed a single punch.

As a result the man stumbled and fell, hitting his head on the ground. He was rushed to Lerwick’s Gilbert Bain Hospital where emergency surgery saved his life before he was flown by air ambulance to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

The court was told last month that the man remains in hospital and will need “constant and daily care for the rest of his life”.

On Thursday defence advocate Gail Goodfellow described Cromwell as “a polite, mild mannered, caring individual” who had turned his life around in the past four years and that the assault was “out of character”.

Despite amassing nine convictions while still a teenager, including one for assault, he had been in a steady relationship for five years and started a successful career in the offshore oil industry, with excellent prospects after being promoted three times in three years.

Goodfellow said that Saturday night her client had no intention of getting involved in a fight, but had ended up exchanging words with his victim out of concern about the man’s relationship with Cromwell’s young niece.

She said he fully acknowledged the “gravity and devastating consequences” of his actions, but suggested there was “a disproportion between the level of violence used and the injuries sustained”.

Now, she said, Cromwell was “a very scared young man” who suffered from nightmares and had difficulty sleeping from the guilt and remorse he felt.

Police had cordoned of the area outside Clydesdale Bank where the assault took place, in August last year.

She said he posed no serious threat to the public, and as an alternative to custody, she asked Sheriff Philip Mann to consider ordering him to carry out unpaid work, tagging him and placing him under supervision while he was onshore.

A prison sentence, she added, would result in “the loss of his employment and probably his career”.

She also suggested Cromwell could pay a lump sum of £10,000, the maximum compensation allowed, saying this might help his victim’s family carry out alterations to make their home fit for his return from hospital.

She hinted that the family may have trouble gaining help from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority as the assault had been provoked.

However Sheriff Mann said that while he could take on board all the mitigating circumstances, there were “significant aggravating features” of the assault, namely the seriousness of the victim’s injuries, the religious prejudice and Cromwell’s previous record.

Jailing him for 12 months, one month of which was for religious prejudice, he said: “I have listened to everything Mrs Goodfellow has said, but weighing everything in the balance I am afraid I can see no alternative to a custodial sentence.

“I can’t bring myself to say that the consequences (of the assault) are simply down to bad luck.

“Rather it’s a matter of good luck and good fortune that the result was not even worse. It could have been fatal.”