Attack outside Littlehampton pub leaves man fighting for his sight
A man who helped his colleague to beat a man so badly outside a pub in Littlehampton that he almost lost his sight in one eye has been found guilty.
Lewis Coleman pleaded not guilty to his part in the attack that happened in High Street, Littlehampton, at around 12.30am on Tuesday, February 13, last year.
The court heard how the incident happened outside The Dolphin pub, which was closed at the time, after Coleman had been drinking at The Crown pub in the High Street.
But the 24 year-old from Wheeler Orchard, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, was found guilty of grievous bodily harm at Worthing Magistrates' Court on Thursday.
Chairman of the bench of magistrates, Lloyd Hanks, said they had come to the conclusion that Coleman 'grabbed' Jose Rodriguez, 'wrestled him to the floor' and held him down while his colleague Wayne Harris, 41, from Muir Close, Newton Farm, Herefordshire, punched Mr Rodriguez repeatedly.
Mr Hanks found Coleman's evidence to be 'inconsistent', adding: "Overall, we found that you minimised your role in the events and we do find your version of events to be disputed by what we have seen on CCTV."
The court heard how Coleman and Harris were staying in Littlehampton for work when they went out for dinner and drinks on Monday, February 12, ending up at The Crown pub in High Street, Littlehampton.
According to prosecutor Amanda Burrows, an argument began between Coleman’s group and a pair of women, which Mr Rodriguez believed was about the women’s sexuality.
As they had no security, the bar manager asked his friend Mr Rodriguez to escort the men off the premises, the prosecution said.
CCTV footage played in court showed the men walking away, before Mr Rodriguez followed them 30 seconds later.
The camera then flipped around to show Mr Rodriguez throwing a punch at Harris, before Harris and Coleman threw him to the floor outside The Dolphin, lent over him and tussled with him for around 10 seconds before bystanders rushed to his aid.
Mr Rodriguez, a machine engineer, received a fractured eye socket and nasal bone, a bleed behind the right eye, and nerve damage to his face, the court heard.
The court heard how the victim had to have a plate inserted under his right eye at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester to save his sight in that eye. While he recovered his sight, he has lost all feeling on the right side of his face, the court heard.
Mark Kessler, defending Coleman, claimed his client was only trying to break up the fight between Harris and Mr Rodriguez because his friend had had a stroke previously, that he had stumbled and fallen on top of Mr Rodriguez, and that the grazes on his knuckles were from falling over.
Coleman admitted drinking five rums with mixers and ten pints of cider or lager that night. He said in court: "By being a little drunk, maybe my reactions of how I broke it up... maybe I didn't handle it as well as I could have."
While giving evidence, he said he only admitted to punching Mr Rodriguez once because the police officer 'put words in his head' during his initial interview after being arrested.
But prosecutor Ms Burrows said: "I would submit you couldn't rely on a single word he said."
The magistrates allowed evidence to be heard relating to Coleman’s previous convictions. In 2006, aged 11, he was cautioned by police for assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and in 2017 he pleaded guilty to common assault, for which he received a community order which he was still carrying out when this latest offence happened.
Harris had previously pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm for his part in this incident.
Coleman and Harris will both be sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court on Friday, February 22.