Dad left brain damaged by thug criticises court sentence

Jonathan Fitzsimmons outside court
Jonathan Fitzsimmons outside court

A drunken thug whose punch left a new dad in a coma for two weeks as he celebrated wetting his baby’s head has been jailed for 14 months.

Jonathan Fitzsimmons, 25, lashed out wildly when rugby player Martin Catterall stepped in to break up a fight.

A judge heard the 30-year-old smashed his head on the pavement as he fell and has now been left with brain damage.

Preston Crown Court was told Fitzsimmons, who had 15 previous convictions, mostly for drunken violence, could not remember anything about the incident, which happened as Mr Catterall was out in Chorley with his rugby team-mates celebrating the birth of his daughter India.

A fight broke out between the two men’s groups of friends and the new dad intervened to break it up. Fitzsimmons hit him with a single punch and he crashed to the ground.

He was rushed to hospital where he spent the next 13 days in a coma with life-threatening injuries. When he eventually woke up he had forgotten he even had a baby girl.

The court heard that as a result of the attack he now has brain damage which causes mood swings and depression.

Sentencing Fitzsimmons, Recorder Bernadette Baxter told him: “In my judgment I would be failing in my public duty if I did not sentence a person with your record to immediate custody.”

John Woodward, defending Fitzsimmons, of Westfield Drive, Leyland, said: “He can’t remember anything about the incident and that remains the case today.

“He is genuinely sorry about what happened and has been chastened by the experience.”

Outside court, Mr Catterall, a joiner from Lostock Hall, said: “I thought the sentencing was a bit lenient because what I am suffering. He does more than deserve it because of his previous convictions.

“My sentence started six months ago and I am going to have to live with what happened for the rest of my life.

“This is now the start of a new chapter in my life and I can start looking positively towards surgery and my daughter growing up.”

Mr Catterall – dad to Madison, nine, Poppy, six, and Rocco, two, from a previous relationship – said he had needed 46 hospital appointments since the attack.

He said: “I play rugby and had gone out with the other Chorley rugby players to celebrate the birth of my daughter India. She was five weeks old at the time and we were wetting the baby’s head.

“I spent 13 days in a coma and I have been left with brain damage and have paralysed vocal chords. I feel like I am 16 years old and I have had to start my life all over again.

“I was classed as dead at the scene.”

He said his partner Holly Moss, 28, a pharmacy technician, had helped him to survive his ordeal.

He said: “My partner Holly was fantastic. She kept telling me that I didn’t deserve it. She was in the hospital with me from 9am to 9pm.

“I didn’t remember my daughter when I woke up. I had to bond with India again and it was like going back to day one. I can’t take her out on my own because there is a risk that I might pass out. I am also suffering with really bad anxiety and don’t like it when there is somebody walking behind me.”