Soldier spared jail after hitting man with golf club and knocking him unconscious

Newcastle Crown Court
Newcastle Crown Court
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A serving soldier who was “goaded into a fight” has been spared jail after knocking a man unconscious and hitting him with a golf club.

Guardsman Liam Irwin, 20, and his father Colin, 41, ended up in court after a fight on November 8.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that victim Eddie Johnson had been walking past the defendants’ address in Neville Court, Washington, with his girlfriend and her friend after a night out.

All three were drunk and were making a lot of noise. Liam Irwin was woken up by the noise and shouted at the group to be quiet.

Mr Johnson then told Liam to come outside. It was then that Liam Irwin confronted Mr Johnson while holding a golf club and hit him with it, breaking the golf club.

The pair began to wrestle on the ground, where punches were exchanged. During the fight Mr Johnson was knocked unconscious.

Miss Angela Richardson, prosecuting, said: “Mr Johnson was hit with the golf club and then a fight ensued. His girlfriend then intervened and she was shoved by Liam Irwin against a window, which smashed.

“The female friend of Mr Johnson then intervened, where she was also pushed back.

“At this point Liam’s father, Colin, became involved and began to argue with the girl. There was a bit of pushing and shoving between them.”

In interview Liam Irwin said it was in self-defence that he had attacked Mr Johnson and there had been numerous complaints about him in the past making noise and being disruptive.

Peter Walsh, defending Liam Irwin, said that the 20-year-old was of previous good character. He said: “He has been serving in the Coldstream Guards for four years and he is an asset to his platoon. He was woken up in the early hours and goaded into a confrontation.

“As he is a soldier he is taught to look after himself, and that is what he did.”

The pair had pleaded guilty to affray at an earlier hearing.

Liam Irwin, who has completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan, was sentenced to a community order, where he must undertake 120 hours of unpaid work over 12 months.

His father Colin, who has previous convictions for battery, was sentenced to a supervised community order for 12 months. Judge Morris QC said to Liam Irwin: “I have heard references from your platoon lieutenant Andrew Dickinson and he says you are a valuable asset to the army and a source of morale for the other soldiers.

“You do need to work on your lack of maturity, but you have worked hard to get to where you are today.

“You were goaded into a confrontation, but that is no excuse for the violence you used. If you breach your community order you could easily find yourself in the position of a custodial sentence, whereupon you could lose your job in the army.”