The tragic consequences a single punch can have on the life of another person were brought home to a Charlottetown man Tuesday in provincial court.
Jeremy Hegarty was sentenced to 30 days in the provincial correctional centre for assault causing bodily harm, a charge laid after a man he sucker punched outside a downtown bar fell to the ground and struck his head.
But he could have been sentenced to a much longer term of incarceration.
The victim in this case suffered serious head injuries that night but there was no way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the injuries the victim was diagnosed with several hours later resulted from the punch Hegarty threw.
That’s because the victim refused offers of medical help at the scene, told off police who wanted to transport him to hospital to be checked out and left the scene.
He was eventually transported to hospital some two hours later after a restaurant employee at Pizza Brothers found him face down on the ground.
The victim had a three-centimetre laceration to his head that went all the way to the skull.
After doctors examined him at the QEH he was transferred to hospital in Moncton where surgery was required to relieve pressure on his brain. During the surgery he suffered a stroke.
The victim was put into an induced coma for several days.
In the months immediately following the assault, the victim required home care personnel to visit him twice a week to help him shower. He suffered memory loss and problems with speech, although both have returned to almost normal since then.
Chief Provincial Court Judge John Douglas said it was impossible to know whether the injuries suffered by the victim were solely the result of the blow Hegarty struck, or whether there had been other developments in the two hours between that blow and his being found on the ground.
Among the possibilities were did he fall or have another altercation.
“The intervening two hours are important,” Douglas said.
He said that punches thrown in bars can, and have, resulted in serious injuries and even death in this jurisdiction and others. While no one intends to inflict serious harm, the results are often tragic, he said.
When people lose control and get involved in an incident in a bar they have to accept that there is an element of danger and that serious consequences may follow, he said.
Douglas said bar fights may have been considered a normal thing in the past but they are not acceptable.
Had the victim’s injuries been established as having resulted solely from the punch he threw Hegarty would be looking at a lengthy period in custody, Douglas indicated.
In imposing sentence, Douglas said the accused had a positive pre-sentence report, had strong family support, had a good work record and had expressed remorse.
Speaking for himself, Hegarty told the court he feels terrible about what happened.
“I wouldn’t wish this on anybody,” Hegarty said. “I feel bad for the victim and his family.”
Hegarty will serve his sentence on an intermittent basis on weekends.
Upon completion of the custodial portion of his sentence he will spend 18 months on probation, during which time he will undergo assessment, counseling and treatment for the use of drugs or alcohol or any underlying issue that may have contributed to the commission of this offence.
Douglas ordered Hegarty to provide a sample of his DNA for the national DNA databank and imposed a weapons prohibition.
There is to be no contact with the victim and he must stay away from the bar where the incident took place.