Victim seriously injured by hammer blows
Teasing on a construction site left one man with a permanent impairment and put his co-worker in prison for 18 months for causing grievous bodily harm.
Gary Bowlyn, 37, who chose to be tried by judge alone, had pleaded not guilty on the basis that he committed the assault in self-defence. Justice Alexander Henderson found that Bowlyn had used unreasonable force, striking his co-worker repeatedly with a hammer.
The judge heard that Bowlyn and some fellow workers had been teasing the victim for about two weeks, calling him a batty man – Jamaican slang for homosexual – and suggesting his girlfriend was a lesbian.
On the day of the assault, 7 September, 2009, the victim indicated he was fed up with the teasing and couldn’t take it anymore.
Words were exchanged and there was some jostling between the victim and Bowlyn, with Bowlyn receiving a minor injury. The two men were parted and they went off to different parts of the work site.
About 15 minutes later, the victim carried a piece of PVC pipe and an electric circular saw to where Bowlyn was working. Justice Henderson found that the victim was still angry and went there for the purpose of continuing the fight.
At the time, Bowlyn was working with a hammer.
Another worker, whom the judge described as honest and not seeming to be aligned with either side, saw the two men swinging at each other. He did not see who hit who first. This witness did say that Bowlyn swung the hammer several times.
One of the blows landed on the victim’s head and caused a severe injury that required brain surgery.
The judge said Bowlyn used excessive force in defending himself, given the disparity between the weapons the men were wielding. He found that Bowlyn “went over the top” when he intentionally struck the other man on the head with a weapon that could have caused death.
The judge said evidence was unclear, but the victim had been left with a permanent impairment that prevented him from working and may have impaired his cognitive abilities.
Bowlyn had denied ever teasing his co-worker. He also denied hitting him with the hammer more than once. He said he was frightened when the other man approached him, so he flung out his arm and the hammer made contact.
At the sentencing hearing on Friday, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Trevor Ward advised the court that in the United Kingdom the offence would attract a custodial term of one to three years, with a starting point of 18 months, because it involved a high degree of harm, but a low degree of culpability. He listed factors to be considered, such as the use of a weapon, lack of premeditation, continuing effect on the victim, the previous good character of the defendant.
“This appears to be an act of isolated violence,” he said.
Defence attorney Ben Tonner said Bowlyn regretted what had happened. The judge replied that his client may not have intended brain damage, but the act that caused it was intended.
In his sentencing remarks, Justice Henderson stated that the aggravating features of the case included the use of a weapon and the homophobic teasing that led to the assault. He said such teasing was discriminatory.