Christopher Towers jailed for paralysing woman over drink
A man who punched a woman to the floor in a row over a spilt drink outside a Tyneside pub leaving her paralysed, has been jailed for more than three years.
Claire Hilton, 28, suffered a broken neck and back when she was punched on a night out in Boldon in June.
Christopher Towers admitted grievous bodily harm at a previous hearing.
At Newcastle Crown Court, Recorder John Aitken sentenced the 24-year-old to three years for that and an extra 30 weeks for assaulting a bystander.
The row started in the Wheatsheaf pub when Towers' mother Lynn Flaherty, who was celebrating her birthday, had a drink accidentally spilled on her.
Flaherty swore and demanded an apology and staff asked both her and Ms Hilton's group to leave.
The court heard that as they walked along, Flaherty's group was abusive and she grabbed the hair and slapped a friend of Ms Hilton.
Towers' then girlfriend Kelly McKone joined in, slapping Ms Hilton. Then Towers stepped in and punched Ms Hilton.
'Taken away freedom'
She was taken to accident and emergency before being transferred to a specialist spinal unit in Middlesbrough.
She was given a tracheotomy to help her breathing and put on a ventilator and underwent extensive surgery on her back.
A medical assessment last week found she had regained some mobility. She uses a wheelchair to travel outside and needs help to get in the bath and to put socks and shoes on.
She still suffers pain in her legs and any movement on her own was assessed as "precarious". She has been unable to live with her son since the incident.
Julie Clemitson, prosecuting, said: "Any sentence that is imposed doesn't make up for what he did to her. She wants him to understand he has effectively taken away her freedom."
She said the most important thing was "being robbed" of spending quality time with her son.
Towers, of New Road, Boldon, also punched Hugh Anderson in the face as he sat beside Ms Hilton and admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Alec Burns, defending Towers, said the defendant apologised to his victim.
He said: "He has thought about her a great deal and will have to do so for the rest of his life. He is ashamed of his actions."
Flaherty, 46, of New Road, Boldon, and McKone, 30, of Stanhope Road, Jarrow, both admitted one charge of assault.
McKone assaulted Ms Hilton and Flaherty another woman.
McKone was ordered to carry out 40 hours unpaid work and Flaherty was sentenced to a 12-month supervision order.
Det Ch Insp Ian Bentham, from Northumbria Police's Major Crime Team, said: "This case shows how violent behaviour can be life changing for a person subjected to it.
"The attack, which arose from a spilt drink, has left the victim with long term injuries which she will have to contend with for the rest of her life.
"I hope today's sentences will in some way help her and her family move forward and come to terms with the ordeal."