A “DANGEROUS” alcoholic who almost killed a man in a brutal beating has had his potentially lifelong sentence overturned by judges on appeal.
Christopher O’Neill, 42, of Linney Square, Scholes, was put behind bars indefinitely for public protection (IPP) at Liverpool Crown Court in July last year after he admitted causing grievous bodily harm with intent.
The punishment, almost identical to a life sentence, meant O’Neill would only be released if he could convince the Parole Board he was no longer a danger to society. But three senior judges at London’s Court of Appeal quashed the open-ended sentence and replaced it with a four-year jail term, followed by an extended six-year period on licence in the community.
Mr Justice MacDuff told the court 47-year-old John Pasquill was walking home in Wigan in March last year when he was hit in the back of the head by O’Neill.
O’Neill then kicked Mr Pasquill, dragged him along the ground and stamped on his head, in what judges called “an exceptionally nasty offence.”
Mr Pasquill needed a tracheotomy as doctors fought to keep him alive, and suffered broken ribs and a fractured vertebrae in the attack. Medical experts gave him a 50/50 chance of survival at one point, and he needed two months in hospital to recover. The judge said both men were dependent on alcohol at the time and the motive for the violence was disputed.
Lawyers for O’Neill told judges his sentence should be quashed because he had never been in prison before, and only committed offences when drunk. Courses to tackle his drinking would manage his risk to the public. Mr Justice MacDuff, sitting with Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Sweeney, allowed the appeal, describing IPP as “a sentence of last resort”.