A “local hard man” who put a promising young man in a permanent vegetative state with a “haymaker” of a punch has been jailed today (Wednesday) for two and a half years.
The man who helped him escape from the scene was sentenced to unpaid work after the judge took into account he had already spent two months in prison on remand.
Judge Paul Thomas said at Swansea crown court that the case was a tragedy for all concerned, not least for the victim, Rory Rogers, and those who loved him.
“His life, his family’s life, his girlfriend’s life, have been shattered. It is a desperately sad case.
“What began as a petty drunken row ended with a young man’s future devastated,” he added.
James Robert Toulouse, aged 24, of Bonvilles Close, Saundersfoot, had admitted causing Mr Rogers grievous bodily harm. He had denied causing him gbh with intent and, after a trial, a jury found him not guilty of the more serious charge.
Jason McReynolds, 20, of Ridgeway Close, Saundersfoot, was found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice by telephoning his then girlfriend and arranging for Toulouse to be driven away from the area as police searched for him.
The jury heard how trouble began after Mr Rogers’ friend, Luke Wallis, told Toulouse in the Deck bar that if he was hard enough he could hit him in the face as hard as he wanted to, which he did.
Mr Rogers and Toulouse exchanged words and as Mr Rogers left the pub Toulouse ran at him and punched him to his head, knocking him unconscious.
Toulouse said he had acted in self defence and had not kicked Mr Rogers, as the prosecution had alleged.
Today, Judge Thomas said he believed that Toulouse had kicked Mr Rogers, and not just once.
Jim Davis, prosecuting, said Mr Rogers remained unconscious. “His condition has not improved and none is expected,” added Mr Davis.
Mr Davis said his family had chosen, understandably, not to attend the sentencing hearing of Toulouse and McReynolds.
Nicola Powell, for Toulouse, said everyone involved had been touched by the tragedy. Toulouse, she said, was extremely sorry for his actions.
Miss Powell said Toulouse maintained that he had not kicked Mr Rogers after knocking him unconscious. Judge Thomas said he took a contrary view.
Carina Hughes, for McReynolds, said the two months he had spent in jail had had a great impact on him.
Judge Thomas said it was another case of drunken young men arguing in a public place and then resorting to violence. Tragedy, he said, can occur.
Toulouse, he added, had been looking for trouble that night, but he had to take into account that Mr Rogers was also prepared to fight in a grassy area opposite the Deck bar.
He said he noted that Toulouse had walked away from the scene “boasting and celebrating” but he also accepted that at that stage he would not have been aware of the damage he had caused.
“Unlike Rory Rogers, you still have a future ahead of you. When you come out you can start your life again. Tragically, that is not available to him.
“You wanted to portray yourself as a local hard man. But afterwards you took the cowardly decision to get away from the scene.”
Judge Thomas said he had to be faithful to the decision of the jury. He jailed Toulouse for two and a half years and ordered him to pay a government surcharge of £120.
Judge Thomas said he did not accept “for one moment” that McReynolds had not realised that Toulouse had done serious harm when he arranged for him to flee Saundersfoot.
McReynolds, he added, had lied to the police and to the jury.
McReynolds was sentenced to an “intensive alternative to custody” programme involving 200 hours of unpaid work for the community, supervision, and his attendance on various courses.