A VIOLENT thug is behind bars today after attacking a family man in a drunken rage at a Sheffield tram stop, leaving him brain damaged.
Mild-mannered Alan Smith, aged 57, was knocked down with a single punch “like a tree being felled” after he tried to calm an altercation between David Sumner and two other men.
His head hit the ground, he was left in a coma, and he needed brain surgery at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital. He has been left severely brain damaged, may never walk unaided again, will need round-the-clock care for the rest of his life, and may not recognise his family.
Sumner, 25, of Walden Road, Heeley, was given an indeterminate sentence for public protection and must serve at least five years and three months before he is considered for parole.
Sheffield Crown Court heard brothers Alan and Brian Carnall had been on a night out in Sheffield city centre when they caught the last Halfway tram from the City Hall stop on West Street.
Also on the tram was Mr Smith, from Hackenthorpe, who enjoyed a fortnightly Friday night out in the city and had a ‘nodding acquaintance’ with the brothers.
Sumner got on at Castle Square and lit a cigarette. Alan Carnall, 40, pointed out smoking was not allowed on the tram and became annoyed when Sumner replied that he would do as he pleased.
David Webster, prosecuting, said that when Mr Carnall reported Sumner to the conductor, Sumner became ‘hostile and aggressive’ threatening: “I’m well up for a fight. I’m crazy, I’m insane, once I get going, no-one can stop me. They’ve picked the wrong person tonight.”
Sumner had been due to leave the tram at Spring Street, near the Manor, but instead paid an extra fare to confront and fight the Carnalls, said Mr Webster.
They tried to sneak off the tram at Donetsk Way, Hackenthorpe, but Sumner followed and punched Brian Carnall, 43.
Alan Carnall and Sumner then began to grapple. Sumner knocked over Mr Carnall and kicked him in the head.
Mr Webster told the court: “Sumner was then challenged by Mr Smith in terms such as, ‘Why are you doing this? Why cause all this bother?’ Sumner struck him a single yet forceful blow to the jaw which sent him to the ground like a tree being felled.”
As other people rushed to help, Sumner continued to behave aggressively before running away.
Sumner – who at the time of the attack was subject to a community order for battery after trying to strangle his former girlfriend while drunk – handed himself in to police after seeing details of the attack on television news. He claimed he had been physically sick when he realised what he had done.
Paul O’Shea, defending, said Sumner was from a “perfectly decent, law-abiding family”. “He’s had to admit to himself that he’s destroyed another man’s life and he’s desperately ashamed,” he said.
Sentencing Sumner, Judge Alan Goldsack QC told him: “You have ruined Mr Smith’s life and that of his family and no words of mine and no sentence I pass can ever restore normality to them.”
He added: “This was a particularly serious example of late night, alcohol-fuelled, gratuitous violence on an innocent member of the public. If the courts do not seek to deter such behaviour by lengthy custodial sentences, decent people are put off from going into their city at night.”
Det Sgt Joanne Baines, officer in charge of the case, added: “The family are devastated – this has completely shattered their lives. Mr Smith’s injuries and the impact this has had on the family are some of the worst I’ve seen.”DAD-of-two Alan Smith’s wife Elaine said the family are “relieved” that his attacker has been punished – but told The Star of her torment over her husband’s future.
Mrs Smith said: “I think the judge did the best he could. We are just relieved that the case is over and we have got this result.
“But it doesn’t change what we are facing. We still have such an uncertain, devastating future.”
Mrs Smith, from Hackenthorpe, described her husband as a “very quiet, mild-mannered man” in an emotional appeal days after the attack.
She had previously said it was a “tragedy that he has suffered such horrific injuries in coming to someone’s aid”.
Mr Smith was returning home from meeting a friend in Sheffield city centre when the incident happened last November.
A second man was also arrested in connection with the attack but later released without charge.