Soldiers jailed for nightclub attack

TWO road workers were kicked unconscious outside an Ipswich nightclub by three soldiers on their return from Afghanistan.Today the soldiers' careers lay in tatters after being jailed for 21 months by Ipswich Crown Court.

TWO road workers were kicked unconscious outside an Ipswich nightclub by three soldiers on their return from Afghanistan.

Today the soldiers' careers lay in tatters after being jailed for 21 months by Ipswich Crown Court.

Matthew Cooper and Colin Hartigan were chased from Fire & Ice in Tacket Street to Foundation Street where they were kicked and punched repeatedly.

Shaun Wilson, 20, Aaron Gibson-Ford, 20, and Andrew Leigh, 22, all of Regimental Headquarters, Rock Barracks, Sutton near Woodbridge were caught on CCTV viciously assaulting the two men as they lay curled up on the ground.

Mr Cooper, 25, who had a phobia of hospitals suffered a broken jaw, concussion and bruising. Mr Hartigan, 44, suffered a black eye and ligament damage in his leg. Both men who did contract work for the Highways Agency lost pay and their self-confidence due to the assault.

Patricia Doggett, prosecuting, said Mr Cooper, who was once in the army, spoke to the defendants inside the club but as he walked across the dance floor he was punched to the ground. Mr Hartigan was at the bar drinking when he saw four to six men attacking his friend. He went to help but was punched and kicked. CCTV footage played in court showed the defendants repeatedly punching and kicking their victims in Foundation Street before running off leaving the men unconscious.

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The defendants pleaded guilty to causing Mr Cooper grievous bodily harm and Mr Hartigan actual bodily harm.

Hannah Duncan, mitigating for Gibson-Ford, said the soldiers had been told in the club: “You should have died in Afghanistan”.

She said the defendants had just returned from “an extremely difficult job” and had been provoked by the men who she said had been overheard wanting to fight the soldiers.

The court heard that if the defendants were given suspended sentences they would be punished again by the military system, imprisoned at Colchester Barracks and would be in a position to pay their victims compensation for their suffering.

Miss Duncan added: “Mr Gibson-Ford has an exemplary record. If he goes to custody he would be out of the army.”

The court heard that all three soldiers had promising careers before the attack on September 30 last year.

Mr Recorder Popat CBE said: “I can only describe this as a horrific, violent, brutal assault on two members of the public.”

He said no compensation would be awarded because of the sentencing.

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