Two guardsmen have avoided imprisonment at Teeside Crown Court today despite CCTV footage showing them commit a violent attack on two civilian victims near their barracks. Shaun Smith, 25, and Jason Collins, 22, were stationed at the Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire when they attacked Mark Thompson and James Wormald after a night out drinking in April last year.
The soldiers, who claimed to have been verbally provoked, left Mr Thompson lying unconscious in the road before chasing the Mr Wormald until he tripped and fell to the ground at which point the vicious assault continued. CCTV footage shows Smith, a Scots Guard, stamp on Mr Wormald 18 times as Collins unleashed a volley of punches on the victim before the pair fled the scene.
Collins, a Welsh Guard who has previously stood guard at Buckingham Palace and St James’ Palace was given a 12 month community order, while Smith was given a 12 month suspended sentence both for committing actual bodily harm. In sentencing Judge Jaime Hill QC called the attack “a deeply unpleasant and inexcusable incident”. Judge Hill said that it was a “major surprise” that the victims had not been more seriously injured. Thoughts echoed by Detective Constable Andy Palmer who described the footage as “the most violent footage I have seen in 10 years as a police officer”.
After passing sentence Judge Hill went on to express his wish that the two guardsmen would be able to continue their careers in the army saying, “What I have done is entirely exceptional. I cannot say what the Army will do but I express the hope that the Army feels able to keep you”.
The two were spared jail on account of their previous “good character” with Richard Herman, defending Smith saying that, “He’s an angel but on that night he was a devil.” Independent local councillor, Tony Pelton, however expressed concern over the judgement saying people would “wonder whether these men are safe to be walking the streets.”
“To stamp on someone’s head 18 times could be viewed as attempted murder, the man they attacked was lucky not to be more seriously hurt. As members of the army they are trained to kill but have used it in the wrong way.”