Thug spared jail to pay for soldier's surgery

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A bottle-wielding thug has been spared a prison sentence – so he can pay for his victim's cosmetic surgery.

Off-duty soldier David Holberry, 24, was left with a deep scar on his forehead when Robert Hart smashed him in the face with a bottle in Preston city centre.

Now – in a landmark ruling – a judge has ordered Hart to pay his victim 2,500 after hearing the life-changing surgery was not available on the NHS.

Private Holberry has backed the decision to spare his attacker jail and said: "If he goes to jail, how is that going to help me?"

Judge Robert Brown told Hart: "In order to receive this surgery he would have to pay for it privately, it cannot be done by the NHS.

"It seems to me it would be a very good reason for keeping you in your employment, with an ability to pay a hefty sum in compensation."

Pte Holberry, who is stationed at Fulwood Barracks, told the Lancashire Evening Post: "I told the police at the time I was never going to be able to pay for that, because it is cosmetic surgery, I have to go private for it.

"I can understand why the judge has done it and I prefer that myself."

Preston Crown Court heard how Hart, 22, attacked Pte Holberry with a bottle in an argument over who would go first in a queue for a cash machine.

CCTV of the incident, which happened at the junction of Fishergate and Church Street last June, showed Hart swing the bottle at his victim but missed.

He then threw the bottle smashing Mr Holberry in the face.

Pte Holberry said: "I was having a few drinks with some mates and I went out to get some cash and was talking to this girl in the queue.

"We had a disagreement and this lad turned round and told me to 'calm down', next thing I felt this big smash on my head.

"I looked down and I was bleeding, my nose was broken, there was blood and glass everywhere. The next thing I could remember was the police pulling him into the back of a van."

The 24-year-old added: "It just left me gutted, I could not understand why he had done it either at the time or even now.

"My confidence was gone for a while after the attack, I did not have much of a social life for about a month after. I have put myself back together now and I am going out again."

Pte Holberry, originally from Denton, Greater Manchester, arrived in Preston in 2006 after three years stationed in Mnchengladbach, Germany.

He is due to go to Iraq later this year as a lorry driver with the Royal Logistics Corp of the 5 General Support Medical Regiment.

Hart, of Leyland Road, Penwortham, pleaded guilty to unlawful wounding. He has no previous convictions.

Wayne Jackson, defending, said: "He is ashamed of what he did, he acted on the spur of the moment in an argument which had nothing to do with him."

Judge Brown ordered him to pay his victim 2,500 and placed him on an 18-month community order together with an unpaid work requirement of 200 hours.

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