Men jailed after Sunderland policeman was blinded by chemical fired into his face

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A BURNING chemical was squirted in a policeman’s face after an undercover operation was rumbled.

Sunderland man John Sumner shot ammonia into the officer’s eye after he was summoned to the scene of a confrontation between his girlfriend’s brother, Christopher Ball, and two plain-clothed policemen.

Blinded and terrified, the officer was forced to flee the scene of the attack in Plains Farm, with the help of his colleague.

The detective constable needed surgery after the vicious late-night assault in August last year, and had only regained half his sight by November.

Sumner escaped in a Renault Clio driven by Fiona Ball, who sped to her brother’s aid after he called her to say “the bizzies” were following him.

The 24-year-old, of Maydown Close, Castletown, later claimed he did not know the two men were police, and admitted causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

Yesterday, Newcastle Crown Court heard how Sumner held out the bottle of corrosive liquid “like a pistol”.

Prosecutor Caroline Goodwin read out a statement from the victim.

“The liquid hit me in the face and my eyes. My eyes were burning.

“I put my hand up to my face and my earpiece fell out.

“I was out of communication. I heard Ball shouting ‘run him over’ and ‘get the blade, your life is over’.

“I feared for my life and felt helpless and vulnerable.

“I was sure I was going to be assault and stabbed.”

Defending, Glen Gatland said Sumner grabbed the ammonia, used by Miss Ball’s father to clean his vintage motorbikes, after fearing his friend was going to be beaten up.

He added: “There was nothing to give him any indication that they were police officers.

“He did not see any radios or anything of that nature.

“He heard Ball shout ‘he’s got a bat,’ and at that stage, not knowing they were police officers, decided he had to incapacitate whoever it was.”

Ball, of Whickham Street East, Roker, admitted causing grievous bodily harm.

Mitigating, David Cannon said the 26-year-old believed he had been followed to Teesside and back by the two men, and feared for his safety after rumours circulated in Sunderland that he had stolen £20,000.

“All of this happened literally in a flash. The car arrived and the ammonia was squirted,” Mr Cannon added.

“It may well be that they said they were police officers, but it does not mean the defendant heard them.”

Sumner was jailed for four-and-a-half years and Ball 18 months.

Ball was also ordered to serve 12 months for handling a stolen Audi, and attempting to break into Harbour View petrol station.

Twitter: @sunderlandecho