A former Union officer has been jailed for nine months after attacking a fellow York undergraduate in Ziggy’s nightclub with a bottle. The SU ruled on Friday that nouse cannot name the student, who pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawful wounding.
In a case described by the judge as “serious”, York Crown Court heard how the student approached Jonathan Percy on the dance floor in Ziggy’s around 1am on 27th May last year. Percy was subsequently hit on the face with a bottle, causing a wound which had to be repaired with Steri-strips.
Prosecuting, Tim Stead said the student had used a bottle to hit the victim on the left side of his forehead. Having mistaken Percy for someone else, he became angry because he thought the latter was lying about his identity.
Percy was later attended to in hospital, where his nose was seen to be “swollen and deflected to the left.” The offending student, the Counsel suggested, had delivered another blow. When interviewed, the student said he had been drinking that evening, the Court heard.
In mitigation, Nicholas Johnson stated that up until the incident, the student had always been of “outstanding and exemplary character.” Referring to his work in the Student Union, Johnson noted that he had “served the very community from which the complainant came – free of charge and extremely well.”
He said that the student initially set out to talk to Percy, a fellow York student at the time, having mistaken him for someone who was dating his former girlfriend. “He concedes this was foolish.”
Johnson said it was an unplanned “extremely short-lived attack”, with no prior intention to do serious harm. The student, he added, “expressed genuine remorse and insight”.
The student, who had previously been a non-sabbatical officer on the Students’ Union, pleaded guilty to one charge of unlawful wounding under Section 20 of the Offenses Against the Person Act.
Arguing against the imposition of a custodial sentence, the defence Counsel stated that he would need to repeat a year of university in order to graduate and would lose potential job opportunities lined up for the summer. He had been seeking a career in politics. But a nine-month prison term was given at the sentencing, which took place in the penultimate week of the Easter vacation.
Judge Paul Hoffman, Honorary Recorder of York, told the student: “In temper, drink and frustration, you hit [Percy] with a bottle. It was the wrong man.” He went on: “It wasn’t the only blow you struck,” but noted it wasn’t clear whether the bottle was used a second time.
“I accept you acted out of character and have performed good works for your University.”
Even though the student was openly named in court and in copies of the York Evening Press sold on campus, nouse has been prevented from disclosing his identity.
The SU invoked its latest powers established under the Media Charter to rule that the student cannot be named. The Charter, which was forced through in October, states that students who remain members of the University cannot be named in campus papers if such action threatens their welfare.
Controversially, this ‘gagging’ policy operates at the discretion of the Union Welfare Officer. Current post-holder John Rose rejected allegations of a Union cover-up, saying: “I’m not going to go against a student’s rights just because they’re an ex-Union officer or someone high profile.”