A paranoid schizophrenic who punched a 96-year-old war veteran in the face, leaving him blind in one eye, walked free from court yesterday after a judge ruled that detaining him was not in the best interests of the public.
Stephen Gordon, 44, was captured on CCTV launching a savage, unprovoked attack on defenceless Shah Chaudhury after they bumped into each other on a crowded tram in south London.
Other afternoon passengers, including children, looked on in horror as Gordon called Mr Chaudhury a "b******" and lashed out at the great-grandfather with his clenched right fist.
In a statement to Croydon Crown Court Mr Chaudhury, a British citizen, said he had been standing in the aisle of the tram because nobody would give up their seat for him.
Which is bad enough in itself, although hardly surprising: London is, after all, the world centre for rudeness and discourtesy. On crowded tube trains I have actually seen healthy young people, who would be quite capable of standing for a few minutes, pushing the elderly out of the way in their selfish desperation to get a seat for themselves.
He was gripping a rail with both hands to steady himself when Gordon tried to squeeze by under his arms.
In the process Gordon’s hat fell off, triggering the attack.
“I had done nothing to provoke him,’’ said Mr Chaudhury. “The driver and the other passengers came to my aid and I was taken to hospital.”
At a trial earlier this year Gordon, of Academy Gardens, Croydon, was found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm.
During the trial Gordon claimed that Mr Chaudhury had punched him.
Causing GBH with intent carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The attack was vicious and unprovoked, the victim was about as defenceless as you can get, and has suffered severe adverse consequences as a result of the attack (as well as losing the sight in one eye, he has suffered a general deterioration in his health, and now resides in a care home) and Gordon appears to have been completely unrepentant. In these circumstances, what sentence do you think Gordon got?
He was sentenced yesterday to a three year supervision order which requires him to receive psychiatric treatment.I would suggest that Gordon would be still less of a threat to the public, were he to reside behind the sturdy walls of one of Her Majesty's prisons, while receiving "support from psychiatrists". Judge Macrae also seems to have completely rejected any notion that Gordon should actually be punished for his behaviour, or that the sentence given should aim to deter anyone else from pursuing a similar course of conduct. Indeed, it would rather appear that Gordon has got off almost scot-free. What does that tell us about the extent to which the criminal has become favoured over the victim in the British criminal justice system?
“At first blush it is not a difficult sentencing exercise, an immediate and significant prison sentence would well be justified,” Judge Kenneth Macrae told the court.
“That said it would do nothing to protect the public in the future and my real concern is the public. It seems to me that the best way of ensuring that he is not a risk, is in relying on various support from psychiatrists and probation officers.”
Personally, I would rather like to see Gordon strung-up from a lamppost. And, I can't say that I'd be all that upset to see Judge Macrae swinging alongside him...