A NEWPORT man who lost his eye after two strangers attacked him on New Years Day has slammed the sentences handed to the culprits as “a joke” and “a kick in the guts”.
Christopher Collins was walking home from a rare night out at the Baneswell Social Club on New Year’s Eve, when he walked past five men near St Woolos Cathedral. One of them accused him of bumping into him and despite his apology followed Mr Collins as he walked away.
“He was looking for a fight,” said Mr Collins, 54, a former professional archer who shot for Wales alongside now Paralympic archer Pippa Britton. “All I wanted to do was go home.”
Mr Collins’ memory from that point on is hazy, but his 15-year-old assailant (who cannot be named) admitted common assault by pushing him over, while 18-year-old Jay Connor Lloyd, of Cedar Wood Drive, Rogerstone, pleaded guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm without intent by punching Mr Collins hard in the side of the face.
Mr Collins managed to ring his wife Jayne, 44, who dialled 999, and the pair were taken in the back of a police car straight to the Royal Gwent’s A&E department shortly before 4am.
“Chris had a CT scan, an eye scan, X-rays,” said Mrs Collins, who also shot for Wales in archery and had to take time off work when she couldn’t sleep and suffered from nightmares. “There was blood coming through his nose, his eye socket, there was so much blood.
“When they said they were going to do a CT scan I didn’t think he would come home.”
The couple, who praised police and hospital staff are “fantastic”, were initially told Mr Collins’ eye might be saved, but despite being able to see light, Mr Collins agreed for it to be removed to prevent problems spreading to his left eye.
He said: “One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is sign that consent form.”
On January 7 Mr Collins’ nose was reset and face rebuilt using four titanium plates, followed by an operation two days later to remove the eye and replace it with a prosthetic one.
“I still get pain from the bone but not much from the eye,” said Mr Collins, who has no feeling in his top lip, beneath his eye and the side of his nose. “Every now and again it feels like someone is trying to push my eye out.”
The attack left Mr Collins, a precision engineer, with a fractured cheek, a broken nose and a split eyeball - but the group of men including the two attackers went on to another party.
Newport Magistrates Court heard last month that Lloyd had consumed 15 cans of Stella, vodka, lager and cocaine before the assault while the 15-year-old had drunk seven bottles of lager, taken cocaine and had a few spliffs.
Mr Collins described the 15-year-old’s six-month referral order as “unbelievable” and that he felt “unbelievably let down by the sentence.”
Speaking after the sentencing of Lloyd, yesterday, Mr Collins said three years imprisonment was “a kick in the guts”.
“I believe the judge was very unhappy with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) because if they had brought more serious charges it could have been a longer sentence,” he said. “I don’t think anything would ever have been enough but in 18 months he’ll be out on licence.
“When you realise that when the judge says it should’ve been [a longer sentence], it’s another kick in the guts. Why wasn’t the 15-year-old sentenced on the same day? They seem to be taking the easy way out.
“We have just got to try and move on with our lives now. He’ll be in prison for 18 months but I’ll be without an eye for the rest of my life.”
Now Mr Collins has to wait around two months before the rest of his prosthetic eye, known as a shell, is sculpted and fitted.
“It will help my confidence,” he said, adding that he hopes to return to work and learn to shoot an arrow left-handed, making use of his left eye.
“I intend to carry on,” he said. “Everything takes a while, things you found very easy before are now totally different, and I need more light, my left eye gets tired quickly. Shaving is now one of the hardest things in the world.
“I have good days and bad days,” said Mr Collins, who is still taking medication to control the pain but can now sleep through the night. “The support from friends and family has been mindblowing. We tend not to give up.”