PLUMBER Dennis Eaglestone has been spared jail for hitting a man he mistakenly believed was breaking into his van round the head with a spirit level.
Recorder John Hardy, sitting at Chichester Crown Court, described the case as ‘the most unique offence of its kind I have ever come across in my professional career’.
Eaglestone, of Southwood Road, Hayling Island, admitted hitting plumber Anthony Tondeur when he thought he was breaking into his van and stealing his tools.
In fact, Mr Tondeur was taking tools out of his own van which was a similar colour and size to Eaglestone’s and parked in his usual space.
Mr Tondeur suffered a fractured skull and was off work for eight weeks. The blow was so hard it caused temporary hearing loss and permanent tinnitus.
He was unable to sleep properly after the accident and still suffers flashbacks.
Recorder John Hardy sentenced Eaglestone to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years after he admitted causing grievous bodily harm at an earlier hearing.
The court hear Eaglestone was paranoid about people breaking into his van and had dreamed it was targeted two nights before.
Recorder Hardy said he accepted that Eaglestone, 57, was a ‘thoroughly decent man,’ but called his actions on January 5, 2011, a ‘grotesque blunder’.
He went on: ‘You attacked a man outside your house who was going about his lawful business as a plumber.
‘You had formed the entirely genuine misapprehension that he was invading your plumber’s van, that he was in the process of stealing your tools.
‘I say genuine misapprehension in order to convey this – it was a genuinely held belief by you that that was what Mr Tondeur was about.
‘But very soon after you had struck him about the head with a spirit level causing him an horrific gash, a fractured skull and long term consequences, it became apparent to you that you had made a ghastly blunder.
‘One of the clearest features of this case is the deep, genuine and profound sense of remorse that you still experience about what you caused to a fellow human being.’
The court heard Mr Eaglestone was struggling to find work and looked after his wife who has cancer.
Judge Hardy also ordered him to do 150 hours community work but no award for court costs or compensation was made because of Mr Eaglestone’s financial problems.