44-year-old Stephen Doyle appeared in the hallway of Stephen Fox’s home wearing a hood and snood while armed on the evening of March 20, 2021.
Prosecuting at Chester Crown Court on August 31, Jayne Fox stated that moments earlier Mr Fox had overheard a “thud” and a “bang” that he took to be someone kicking his front door in Runcorn, Cheshire.
The court heard how Mr Fox grabbed a hammer and went to investigate the noise at which point he found his once locked door wide open and an intruder in a black hooded jacket standing in his hallway, reports Liverpool Echo.
The attacker swung a metal bar directly at Mr Fox’s head, making contact, however he remained conscious despite the pain and feeling “groggy”.
Mr Fox grabbed the bar with one hand and hit the intruder with the hammer, striking his head in self-defence and causing it to “split open” and gush with blood.
When they stumbled into the kitchen with “blood going everywhere”, the intruder was “struggling to see” and he dropped the metal bar and took off the snood, revealing Doyle’s face below.
The fight continued as Doyle grabbed a metal chair and hit Mr Fox’s back with it, while shouting “you’re dead, you’re getting it” at his victim.
Doyle tried to grab the hammer and Mr Fox realised he could be “seriously hurt or even killed”, and again he had to prevent Doyle arming himself by dragging him away from some glasses, one of which Doyle grabbed but dropped.
The intruder finally walked out, picking up the metal bar and his face coverings on the way, leaving the scene behind where his blood was “all over the place”.
Miss Morris said a witness saw Doyle in the area after the incident, and he was carrying a metal bar and his head was bleeding.
Mr Fox was treated at Runcorn Urgent Care Centre at Halton Hospital in the early hours of March 21 for scratches and grazes and he was discharged with head injury advice and some co-codamol painkillers.
The court heard how trouble had been brewing between the two men since February when Mr Fox said he didn’t want to speak to Doyle.
Mr Fox, who lived on another part of the estate to his attacker claimed he was subsequently assaulted by Doyle and that his car was set on fire, but Doyle was not charged in connection with those allegations.
On March 20, before he stormed Mr Fox’s home address Doyle called Mr Fox’s mother Pauline Fox and told her: “Tell your Ste he’s f***ing dead and all your cars are getting torched and blown up.”
In her victim impact statement she said she’d lived in the area for 36 years and until then had felt secure enough to leave her door unlocked, but no longer.
When officers from Cheshire Police arrested Doyle at work the day after the attack, he claimed the Fox family had a “vendetta” against him and he went to the house to “make amends” but Mr Fox had a hammer.
Doyle denied having a metal bar with him.
He initially faced an allegation of aggravated burglary but later pleaded guilty on full facts to assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH), possessing an offensive weapon, and malicious communications.
The defendant had four past convictions for six offences including handling stolen goods, breaching a non-molestation order, and a caution for ABH from his youth.
Kenneth Grant, defending, conceded the attack passed the custody threshold but he argued the sentence could be suspended, as he cited a probation report recommending Doyle be dealt with in the community due to his rehabilitation prospects and because he was not deemed a risk to the public.
Mr Grant said there was a “very unpleasant background” to the case and that “unpleasant rumours” had been spread about his client.
He said: “Whereas somebody with a better understanding might have gone to see a solicitor and arranged for correspondence to be sent to the individuals spreading these wrongly, Mr Doyle decided to engage in types of behaviour that some people who are ignorant (might) – I say that not in a pejorative manner – he decided to take matters into his own hands.”
He added Doyle said he had told the police three times but “nothing had happened – he felt he had to take matters into his own hands”.
Mr Grant added that character references portrayed father-of-nine Doyle as a hard-worker who “goes the extra mile” for colleagues.
Judge Steven Everett, Recorder of Chester, consulted the sentencing guidelines and whether the court must “send a message” to others who might “choose to go into somebody’s house with a weapon” that they will be punished.
Mr Grant argued that a financial penalty is such a punishment, as he noted it was a “finely balanced situation” and that Doyle was a “benefit to the community” who could be rehabilitated.
Recorder Everett sentenced Doyle to 10 months in prison, suspended for 18 months.
He imposed a restraining order, and ordered 200 hours’ unpaid work alongside a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement.
Doyle must also pay £500 in compensation.
There was no separate penalty for the “pretty awful, shameful message to Pauline Fox”.
The judge said there was “no direct evidence one way or the other” that Mr Fox had spread a rumour.
During his sentencing remarks, he said: “I’m not going to sentence you on the basis he did do that, I’m going to sentence you on the basis you perceived he did do that.
“There seems to be no other reasons you did what you did.
“You believed he had been making disparaging comments about you.
“That’s not a reason to do what you did.
“There’s no justification.
“If you felt he was making these comments and harassing you, you should have gone to the police.
“That’s what normal people do, they don’t take the law into their own hands.
“They don’t threaten their mother with a pretty unpleasant phone call.
“They don’t take a metal bar to their home looking for a fight.”
He added: “It looks like you simply lost your self-control in a moment of utter madness.”
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