One-punch victim’s anger at sentence
A MAN who was left fighting for his life after a cowardly one-punch attack at a Townsville university says he feels failed by the system designed to serve justice.
Nathan Welch went into a coma and spent years in rehabilitation after a drunk and angry student pursued him as he left the JCU Uni Bar, changing his life forever with a single blow.
He was put in an induced coma as a result of the assault on August 1, 2019. He suffered minor but lasting brain damage and a fractured neck, and part of his skull was removed to counteract the swelling in his brain.
His attacker, 21-year-old Caleb Souter, wiped tears from his eyes as he faced the Townsville District Court on March 12 this year.
As both young men walked into the courthouse, Mr Welch said he had hoped his attacker would find the courage to shake his hand.
"I would have said: 'Do your time and when you get out, we will get a beer together,'" he said.
But instead Mr Welch said the man who almost killed him could not even make eye contact.
Judge Gregory Lynham sentenced Souter to four and a half years' jail with his sentence to be suspended after a single year behind bars.
As he handed down the sentence, Mr Lynham said no amount of jail time would ever make up for the pain and hurt Souter had inflicted.
But Mr Welch sees it differently and said he expected the courts to take a firmer stance considering the publicity of the dangers of alcohol-fuelled violence and the introduction of the One Punch Can Kill legislation in 2014.
He said it was hard to explain the crushing emotion he felt as the sentence was handed down.
"Just far out," he said. "I have to deal with this for the rest of my life, he (Souter) has to deal with it for one year."
On top of the year behind bars, Souter must remain offence-free once he is released for five years or he risks being returned to jail to serve the remainder of his sentence.
In Mr Welch's view this is hardly a punishment and simply the expectation of anyone in the community.
Because of the serious head injuries he sustained, the young father, who has another baby on the way, might never be able to return to the work he loved on cattle stations.
He can't even get behind the wheel of a car and has struggled to relearn who he was before the attack.
Mr Welch said he could not stop thinking about the court's ruling and he was angry at what he perceived as the judge's sympathy towards his attacker.
"I felt the judge was pretty much on his (Souter's) side, calling him a victim and what have you," he said.
"He (Mr Lynham) never looked at me. Every time he said my name he had to look at a piece of paper beforehand.
"I feel like I have been set back three or four months in my healing process."
Originally published as One-punch victim's anger at sentence