By Gareth Lightfoot
23 Apr 2009 10:50
A SAVAGE, animalistic attack on an innocent stranger has earned Benjamin Cooke five years in prison.
He bit part of a man’s ear off in the street, leaving the victim of the unprovoked drunken assault afraid to go out alone, Teesside Crown Court heard.
Camouflage jacket-clad Cooke, 26, came up behind 53-year-old Paul Swaile, jumped on his back and bit his left ear.
Mr Swaile, who was on his way to celebrate a friend’s birthday at his local pub yards away from his home in North Skelton, struggled to fend off his assailant.
“The defendant continued to behave like a wild animal,” prosecutor Adrian Dent said yesterday.
Cooke also bit Mr Swaile’s left thumb and twice bit his forearm, causing him “absolute agony”, before kicking him and walking away.
Mr Swaile lost part of the upper section of his left ear.
The court was told of the serious effects on self-employed Mr Swaile’s life including depression, fear of going out on his own and loss of about £2,000 earnings.
After the attack, Cooke went to a friend’s house where he seemed to brag “I’ve just bitten someone’s ear off” before being told to leave.
Arrested, he told police he was very drunk, had been taking medication for depression, remembered biting someone and said he felt terrible, was very sorry and disgusted.
Cooke, of Trouthall Lane, Skelton, admitted wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm on the evening of November 8 last year.
Duncan McReddie, defending, asked for mercy for a man who felt great remorse for a “horrendous and almost animalistic attack”.
He said it followed a spiral into depression, alcohol misuse, non-compliance with medication and worsening health.
More than 10 hours’ drinking, including half a bottle of vodka, alcopops and absinthe, played a “significant part” in the events, but was not an excuse, said the barrister.
Cooke had visited Mr Swaile’s home minutes before the assault, wrongly thinking it was the home of a friend.
He suffered from chronic psoriasis, now in remission, and had been ashamed to go out in public due to sores on his face and hands.
“He says he fully understands and offers his deepest sympathy for Mr Swaile’s comments that since the attack he has been afraid to leave the house. For much of the last 18 months to two years, he felt the same way himself.”
Judge Peter Fox QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, told Cooke: “Your attack upon this complete stranger was without any reason and without any provocation.
“He is a middle-aged man, he’s never done you any harm, and yet you savaged him like a wild animal.
“You have expressed genuine remorse. Now in the cold light of day you realise what you did what the consequences are, for they are permanent and they are severe.”
He jailed Cooke, who had a previous conviction for common assault, for five years, adding that it would have been “far, far longer” if not for his mother’s reference and a probation officer helping to “shed light” on the offender.