Barnstaple attacker spared jail after turning life around

Exeter Crown Court

Exeter Crown Court - Credit: Archant

A drunken attacker who kicked a Good Samaritan in the head and spat at police has been spared a jail sentence after turning his life around. 

Richard Down punched and kicked a 64-year-old man who went to the aid of a woman who was being attacked by him at a house in Barnstaple. 

Down felled the man and then kicked him in the face before attacking a woman who tried to intervene and spitting at police when he was arrested. 

The violence happened just a month after he had been in court for a series of violent incidents in North Devon, including five attacks on police. 

A judge at Exeter Crown Court said his behaviour would normally merit an immediate jail sentence but Down had succeeded in overcoming an alcohol problem with the help of a rehabilitative community. 


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Reports from the Freedom Community said he had been drink and drug free since joining them on Christmas Eve 2019 and has just moved to semi-independent accommodation in Plymouth.  

He is undertaking daily group sessions on Zoom and wants to train as a mentor so he can help others turn their lives around in the same way. 

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Down, aged 30, formerly of Howard Avenue, Barnstaple but now living in Plymouth, admitted two counts of assault causing actual bodily harm and one of assaulting an emergency worker. 

He was jailed for a total of 16 months, suspended for two years, ordered to do 100 hours unpaid community work and pay £370 compensation by Judge Timothy Rose. 

He told him: “Everybody says you are continuing to make some positive and exceptional progress. You have gone through a year of intensive personal rehabilitation. You are no longer drinking and your life has been revolutionised in a positive way.” 

Mr Peter Coombe, prosecuting, said Down and his then girlfriend were visiting the 64-year-old victim in Barnstaple on October 12 last year. 

Down became aggressive towards his partner and then attacked the man when he tried to stop him. He punched him to the ground and kicked him to the head. 

Down’s girlfriend went to fetch help and came back with a female friend, who was also assaulted by being punched in the face and slammed against a wall. 

He left the house but was arrested nearby and spat at a police officer, who was able to turn away but still felt the spittle hit the back of his head and run down his neck. 

A victim statement said the attack was disgusting. 

Mr Richard Crabb, defending, said the long delay in the case coming to court had given Down a chance to turn his life around with the help of the Freedom Community. 

He has been sober for a year and now realises his behaviour that night was disgusting and inexcusable. He is attending daily group sessions by Zoom and wants to become a mentor for others. 

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