A talented singer was left with no confidence to perform after she was beaten by a drunken thug in an unprovoked attack outside a Sunderland takeaway.
Annabelle Jacques, 37, was left with facial injuries when complete stranger Darren Jones, 48, set upon her and a friend outside Chilino’s.
The singer, who had, only days before the attack, closed Sunderland Pride festival in front of thousands of people, felt forced to cancel gigs due to her appearance and lack of confidence.
Jones, of Cresswell Terrace, Ashbrooke, has now been given a 10-week prison sentence, suspended for a year, after pleading guilty to two counts of assault.
Prosecutor John McGlone told Sunderland magistrates how Miss Jacques had gone into the takeaway, on Albion Place, at 3am after a night out with friends on September 30.
Mr McGlone said she slipped on the wet floor inside the takeaway, prompting total stranger Jones to start shouting and swearing at her and calling her names, before he left the takeaway.
Late-night, drunken violence in the city centre will always be punished. In your case the pre-sentence report shows that your mental health problems have to be treated in the community, so while there will be a prison sentence, it will be suspended. I am satisfied that the aggravating features make the offence so serious that only a custodial sentence is appropriateDistrict Judge Roger Elsey
Miss Jacques’ friend Ryan Grey was waiting for her next to their taxi, on the other side of the road, when he heard Jones shouting at her, the court heard, and he went to stand between the two of them.
“Jones then punched Mr Grey in the head with his left fist,” Mr McGlone added. When Miss Jacques told him “there is no need for that”, he punched her in the eye.
Jones continued to be aggressive and spat at Mr Grey, who restrained him on the ground until police arrived to arrest him.
He told officers: “I haven’t done anything.”
Mr McGlone said he continued with the abuse, which was now directed at police, and was “uncooperative” both in the van and when he arrived at the police station.
Miss Jacques said in a victim statement read out in court: “I feel upset and angry that after a good night out with friends a complete stranger has punched me. My eyes are swollen and I can tell people are looking at me.”
Mr Grey said: “I’m very upset that this man has assaulted me and, more so, my friend Annabelle. There was no need for it.”
Ian Jordan, defending, said Jones had not been in any serious trouble for 15 years, but said his relationship broke down earlier this year and he attempted suicide.
He’s been in and out of mental health clinics and has lived in various bedsits since, but now has his own accommodation.
“He can’t remember what happened,” Mr Jordan added. “But he accepts his actions against these two people were unlawful. He accepts his actions were wrong.”
Sentencing Jones, District Judge Roger Elsey said: “Late-night, drunken violence in the city centre will always be punished.
“In your case the pre-sentence report shows that your mental health problems have to be treated in the community, so while there will be a prison sentence, it will be suspended.
“I am satisfied that the aggravating features make the offence so serious that only a custodial sentence is appropriate.”
Jones was also told to complete up to 25 days of specified activity and will be subject to a two-month curfew between 9pm and 6am, to prevent further offending.
He was told to pay £75 in compensation to each victim, £50 costs, and £150 criminal courts charge.
‘I feel like I’ve lost my confidence in a way and I felt unable to perform’
Victim Annabelle Jacques, 37, has told the Echo that she feels “disgusted” at the leniency of the sentence after the attack which left her “stunned”.
Speaking from her home in Monkwearmouth, the mum-of-three said: “I feel disgusted, because it wasn’t just about the attack. I do a lot of singing for charity and I closed Sunderland Pride just the week before in front of 5,000 people.”
The performer, who sings ballads and soft rock but also disco at Pride events, had to cancel gigs because of the way her eye looked.
“I feel like I’ve lost my confidence in a way and I felt unable to perform in the Open Mic finals afterwards,” she said. “I was gutted.”
Annabelle, who has a partner, Andrew, 35, said she was shocked to be attacked by someone she had never met in her life.
“I think it’s disgusting that someone can just hit a woman,” she said. “I just got abuse from him. The takeaway staff quickly gave him his food and told him to leave.
“I got my food and went across to the taxi, which was parked on the other side of the road. He was abusive and there was a scuffle and he punched Ryan in the face. I was stunned, I was actually crying. All I could think about was my eye.
Someone from the takeaway ran out side with a bag of frozen chicken nuggets to put on my eye.
“I didn’t dare look in the mirror when I got home. I went to my GP who looked at it and said it was badly bruised.”
Although the incident has left her nervous, Annabelle says she will not shy away from nights out, and she hopes to perform soon again.
“I’m a bit nervous going out now but I’ll still got out,” she added. “It was such a great night as well. Apart from that point it was a fantastic night out.”